Aired on KSDS-FM on 2/10/17
RUN DATES: 1/20/17 – 2/19/17
VENUE: South Coast Repertory
Prepare to be swallowed up in the belly of the beast. “Moby Dick” is thoroughly immersive.
Not only does the set resemble both the ribcage of a great whale and the hull of a whaling ship, but the spectacular sound and lighting, the astonishing theatricality and escalating suspense reel you in, and then, in one of many magnificent coups de théâtres, a semblance of the gargantuan white whale floats in over our heads. This jaw-dropping production is literally breath-taking.
Three theater companies came together to co-produce and share this exceptional experience with their respective audiences: Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., and lucky for us, South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa. What they’re sharing is the stupendous Lookingglass Theatre Company production that premiered in 2015 to near-universal acclaim.
Founded in 1998, the Tony Award-winning, Chicago-based Lookingglass Theatre is renowned for its ingenious adaptations of literary classics. In association with the Actor’s Gymnasium, a circus and performing arts group, they’ve included in their “Moby Dick” acrobats and aerial artists who scramble up and swing from the ropes and rigging, and spin and dangle impossibly from silks and straps.
But all of this would be mere spectacle if it didn’t serve Melville’s 1851 masterwork. Adapter/director David Catlin has done an extraordinary job of capturing the mythic scope and religious allusions of the colossal novel, including the rabid obsession of the monomaniacal Captain Ahab; the ardent morality of his first-mate, Starbuck; the exotic humanity of the tattooed Islander, Queequeg; and the self-titled outcast, the hapless narrator who calls himself Ishmael, in one of literature’s most famous opening lines.
In addition to a heart-thumping soundscape, some of it created by the performers, Catlin adds three golden-voiced, tightly harmonizing Sirens, other-worldly women who lure and curse, protect and reject the whalers on the Pequod.
This brilliant production invites you to project your own symbolic, satiric or cautionary interpretation on the meaning of the white whale and the mad demagogue’s frenzied quest for power and revenge.
©2017 PAT LAUNER, San Diego Theater Reviews