Lookingglass Theatre new production of David Catlin’s original adaptation of Herman Melville’s classic novel, “Moby Dick”, is stunning. Superbly acted, “Moby Dick” features a tour de force performance by Christopher Donahue as the increasingly insane Captain Ahab. Although it does run long, at three hours, “Moby Dick” is worth your time. I give it 4 Spotlights.
I love going to Lookingglass because you never know what to expect. The most flexible theater space in the city actually is a different theater for every show. For Moby Dick, seating is on the north side which means the audience enters from behind the risers. Practically the first thing you see are a series of evenly spaced white tubes arching above. That series of pipes tapers down to a final, oddly shaped piece hanging on the wall. It gave the impression that we were sitting inside of a whale!
The entire south side of the space – from the floor to the ceiling – served as the set. A huge, irregularly shaped slab of wood was the deck of the Pequod. The floor space around the slab was, by turns, a street in Nantucket, a lower deck on the ship and the ocean. Overhead, those curving pipes became the masts and spars of a whaling ship climbed with remarkable agility by the crew.
Staging included a Greek Chorus (Fates) which could, among other things, become spouting whales; more than enough tumbling aerial spins, and stilt-walking to satisfy any circus-lover; as well as elements of dance and performance art.
A young man named Ismael (Jamie Abelson) wants an adventure, so he makes his way to Nantucket Island where he hopes to join the crew of a whaling ship and see the world. On the island, he shares a room with an unusual man named Queequeg (Anthony Fleming III) who proclaims he’s a prince who ran away from his father and his obligations. Together, they sign on for a three-year voyage with Captain Ahab (Donahue) on the Pequod. Starbuck (Kareem Bandealy), Cabaco (Micah Figueroa), Stubb (Raymond Fox) and Mungun (Javen Ulambayer) are the rest of the crew.
The three Fates (Emma Cadd, Kasey Foster and Monica West) played multiple parts. Using a bright blue cloth, they were the ocean. They opened and closed tiny umbrellas to simulate whales spouting. In an amazing bit of stage choreography, a whale (Fate) was killed by the crew. Her black skirt (skin) was pulled off exposing different colored petticoats. Strung up by her ankles, her petticoats fell over her head, exposed her hoops. A crewman grabbed one of the petticoats, started pulling, peeling long pieces of fabric (whale blubber) off until only the hoops (skeleton) were left.
“Moby Dick” runs through August 30th at Lookingglass Theatre, located inside Chicago’s historic Water Tower Water Works, 821 N. Michigan at Pearson, Chicago. Running time is 3 hours with 2 intermissions. Performances are Tuesdays through Sundays at 7:30 pm, with 2:00 pm matinees on most Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Check with the Box Office for specific dates. Tickets range from $40-$80. Discounted parking is now available at 3 locations: John Hancock Center Self Park; Olympia Centre Self Park; and Water Tower Place. FYI (312) 337-0656 or www.lookingglasstheatre.org.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Moby Dick”