A barren stage with metal bars suspended from the ceiling mimic a rib cage of the great killer whale. A spotlight rests on a wooden coffin elevated by a platform in the shape of a ship’s deck. After seven years of hard work, Chicago’s Lookingglass Theatre brings “Moby Dick” to the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta. This stage adaptation of the widely read novel by Herman Melville runs through this weekend at the Woodruff Arts Center in Midtown.
The play follows the story of Ishmael and his peculiar friend Queequeg as they come aboard a whaling ship, the Pequod, in search of adventure. On board they meet Captain Ahab, who is a brutal enemy of all whales swimming in the sea except — for one. This mystical pure white whale, as the captain claims, tore off one of his legs. Filled with vengeance, he intends to follow Moby Dick, the “monstrous” white whale, to the ends of the Earth until his harpoon pierces its slippery skin. Ishmael and Queequeg are roped along on Ahab’s quest for revenge and come face to face with dire trials, tribulations and lasting consequences.
The show advertises its circus aspects, which include a straps act where one of the crewmates, Mungun (portrayed by Javen Ulambayar who is also the circus captain of the play), ultimately plunges into the water. His drowning scene is a struggle between the will to live and the compelling force of the cold ocean water. The crew mate pushes himself up on the straps, the two thin threads of life, trying to escape the Fates pulling him down. Along with the straps act, I was very surprised to see the actors being able to do partner acrobatics (hand-to-hand). It was truly spectacular how the incorporation of circus acrobatics into the show was the last piece of the puzzle to make the theatre performance look like the play is taking place on the vast ocean, where swimming and drowning is possible on the wooden stage. There might also be a little bit of flying involved, but you will have to see for yourself.
I was truly impressed. My expectations were not high going into this show. In fact, I was skeptical. There was no way that a play could be written and done well enough to match the quality of Melville’s classic novel. I was wrong. The show is well cast and filled with costumes, sets and circus acts that bring the play to life, as if the audience is watching the Pequod ship sailing in the ocean in front of them. I would recommend everyone to see this show. If not for the reminiscing of the times when teachers made you read the book, then go for the ecstasy of being able to close your eyes, fasten your seat belt and rock side to side on the Pequod ship as it sails through the tumultuous Indian Ocean.
The show closes on Oct. 30, so make sure you dock your ship at the Alliance Theatre soon.
Rebecca, 16, attends Milton High School and enjoys the simple things in life such as coffee, traveling the world and whale hunting.