Monday, July 10, 2017

Review of Moby Dick at Lookingglass Theatre Company

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Moby Dick. It was adapted and directed by David Catlin from the book by Herman Melville, in association with The Actor's Gymnasium. The circus choreography was by Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi. It was about a guy named Ishmael (Jamie Abelson when I saw it, Walter Owen Briggs at matinees) who was going whaling on a ship called The Pequod with his friend Queequeg (Anthony Fleming III) who he met at a hotel. The captain, Ahab (Nathan Hosner), had his leg bitten off by a whale with a name: Moby Dick. And Ahab is trying to kill him for revenge but endangering everyone on the boat while they are doing that. His first mate, Starbuck (Kareem Bandealy), is trying to keep him from putting the crew in danger and he also wants everybody to do their job, which is to get whale oil not revenge. It is about obsession, death, and understanding. I thought this was a really great show. I thought the circus elements tied in very well. Even though this is a story about a bunch of men on a boat trying to kill a whale, they made it beautiful and haunting by adding circus and musical elements (composed by Rick Sims).

This show incorporated a lot of circus into the story. There was a woman who represented the sea (Mattie Hawkinson) and she pulled men to their deaths in a seductive manner. She had this long flowing skirt that basically enveloped the whole stage. When she would walk offstage, it billowed behind her and it was super majestic to look at. All the people who were going out whaling have to give up seeing women for a long time, so it is like they are seeking the one thing they don't have while they are whaling and then they see that in the sea and then they die. There was also a beautiful and tragic death of a character named Mungun (Javen Ulambayar). He falls from the sails into the water and the Fates (Kelly Abell, Cordelia Dewdney, and Hawkinson) pull him down, but he is still trying to fight to get back up. There is this suspenseful music playing and Mungun is lowered on a rope and the fates are trying to get Mungun on the sea floor. They are pulling him down and he is pulling them up. It was super dramatic and fun to watch. I think the most haunting section was when you see Moby Dick, but he is made up of the Fates gone rogue. Their makeup is all smudged and they roar and they go on a rampage as one creature. It was slightly disturbing and intense. I was shivering a bit. I really liked how they portrayed Moby Dick's attack. Why it seemed so alarming was that everything seemed normal and then these alarms sound (designed by Sims) and you see these flashing lights (designed by William C. Kirkham), and it seems like there is a fire in the building, but no it is Moby Dick come to kill you! They make it so you are scared before you even know what is going on. There is also a great surprise for the audience when Moby Dick arrives for a second helping of Ahab, which I am not going to spoil.

Queequeg and Ishmael had an adorable relationship. When they first meet, they are kind of terrified of each other. But then they develop an unlikely (because they are from different sides of the world) friendship, where they learn about each others' cultures and they find out they see the world in a similar way by the end. I think you'd be crazy not to ship them! #Ishqueg'sShipHasSailed They both are searching for adventure and think of themselves like Jonah from the Bible. They both tell stories. Ishmael narrates the story that we are watching; Queequeg has a story that he carries around with him in tattoo form. Queequeq carves a story onto his coffin when he thinks he is going to die. And then the coffin ends up saving Ishmael's life, which means Ishmael is kind of saved by Queequeg's story. It is really sad because they had a really strong bond but they aren't together anymore.

Ahab has basically decided that he will not rest, or let his men rest, until Moby Dick has been captured and killed. Even when one of the crew, Cabaco (Micah Figueroa), jumps off the whaling boat out of fear and then goes crazy, Ahab won't turn around. That really shows you how messed up he is and how obsessed he is about killing this specific whale, even though it is hard to believe the whale did it on purpose and deserved to die. I think Starbuck is on the wrong ship because he isn't in it for the kill, he is in it to support his family. You get to see two other ships that are more motivated around getting the job done. One of them even has a captain, Captain Boomer (Raymond Fox), who has lost an arm to Moby Dick, but he isn't obsessing over him. He is moving on with his life with one less limb. This character was very funny because he was so cheery even though he was talking about how he lost his arm. There was another ship, The Rachel, that becomes obsessed, but the captain, Captain Gardiner (Fox) is obsessed over something that makes sense: his son got taken away by a whale, but he might not be dead yet. This character was heartbroken when you see him because he is so terrified and he just wants some help. But will Ahab help him? No! Because he's a jerk and he's too obsessed with this whale that doesn't really matter. Ahab does have a moment when he shines through his craziness. Starbuck wants the old Ahab back, and he sees it when Ahab starts to think of his wife and son. Ahab is about to turn the ship around, when the thing he is looking for shows up right in front of him. I think it is super interesting to see the roller coaster of emotions Starbuck and Ahab go through, and it is really heartbreaking to see when Ahab ruins most of their lives even though deep down he knows what is right.

People who would like this show are people who like beautiful circus elements, whale obsessions, and Ishqueg. I think that people should definitely definitely go see this show. It is moving, funny at points, and really mesmerizing to watch. It is so much fun to experience. I loved it!

Photos: Liz Lauren

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