Scene III: A perfect summer evening at the Old Stone House, its Revolutionary War museum serving as a staging area. An attentive Park Slope crowd turns out at twilight for an inventive and affecting original production of "The Island of Dr. Moreau" by the Piper Theater Company. (You can catch it again next Saturday July 21 at 8 p.m. at the same venue; and it's free.)
Honestly, no one in the world works harder and more joyfully than young, ambitious actors. These ones threw themselves into their bare-bones show with brio on a sultry night, competing with an urban cacaphony of sirens, airplanes, and car horns. At one point, when a character onstage screamed in horror, some wag down on Fourth Avenue screamed back. The cast was unfazed.
Scene II: That afternoon. A few toddlers clamber over the empty stage in front of the reconstructed 1699 Dutch farmhouse. Today, it sits tucked between a lovely new playground and a swath of artificial turf for ball games, overlooking a Staples and a few blocks from the Gowanus Canal.
Scene I: August 27, 1776. The house is caught up in the bloodiest encounter of the Battle of Brooklyn, the American Revolution's first pitched battle. Rifle fire and the screams of fallen men rend the air around the marshy farmland, as vastly outnumbered Americans struggle to hold off British and Hessian troops.
Meanwhile, most of Washington's army retreats from around the area of today's Prospect Park to evacuate across the East River later that night, regroup, and fight on for freedom. The defense of the Stone House meant capture or death for hundreds of patriots. But the legendary valor of William Alexander (known until that day as a vain and gouty inebriate who insisted upon the doubtful title of Lord Stirling) and the elite fighting men of William Smallwood's Marylanders regiment, may well have kept the Revolution from ending that muggy and terrifying day.