by Herman Melville
Adapted and directed by Ken Conner
Staring Mark March, Lou Hilaire, Larue Jackson
Theater Downtown, Orlando
Call me impressed. Idealistic Ishmael (March), no longer satisfied with the abuse in the merchant marine service, signs up for 3 years before the whaling mast. Along with master harpooner QueeQueg (Jackson), he sets off with deranged Captain Ahab (Hilaire) and a crew of mimes to hunt the oily cetaceans. Ahab has cracked the whale code, and can predict where and when whales will appear. While this could accelerate the ultimate extermination of the blubbery mammals, Ahab has a higher calling in mind — vengeance. It seems a certain albino with a taste for sea captain appendages did him wrong, and he means to even the score. Moby turns up just as he planned, strong as a nor’wester and not amused by Ahab’s persistence. Ship and crew are lost, with none but the soggy Ishmael left to tell the tale. It’s sad, but short.
Moby represents a Primal Force, something man cannot fight with any certainty, nor set on stage. The minimal set forces the crew to create the space and sense of sea by action alone Subtle sound effects and a cast swaying with Star Trek precision create a tinge of sea sickness in the audience. Whale boats are small, and no one gets to leave the stage for the entire show. Tuneless sea chanteys complete the mood.
Melville’s novel is long and difficult, but Connor’s adaptation renders it like the liver of a whale, leaving only the essential oil of man’s struggle against the elements. You can pray to your gods, you can temper the finest steel with blood, and you can contain the entire world in your head. Yet , when the time comes, when your time comes, you are at time’s mercy. Keep you lines taut and your harpoon sharp, and leave vengeance to God.