The Whale is a wonderfully entertaining and conceptually creative version of Melville's Moby Dick, retold as a one-man show with an incredible and awe-inspiring performer.
Reviewed by Cindy Pierre
The Whale is Melville's Moby Dick adapted into a vivid and explosively visual one-man show. Co-adapted by Renee Philippi and Carlo Adinolfi and performed by Adinolfi, respect and appreciation for the text jumps off the stage and wraps you in the embrace of a giddy boy seeking adventure. Using ship props, blocks and everything else aquatic, Adinolfi begins to impress with a balancing act right at the beginning and never relents.
Adinolfi’s magnetism and grace make it easy to experience Captain Ahab's madness and to switch to Ishmael's alienation and wonder. His fluidity, Philippi’s whimsical direction and David Pinkard's provocative sound effects also bring out the romanticism in Melville's epic. The only wrinkle in this flow is Adinolfi’s recitation of chapter numbers as a means to fast forward through the text. It’s a practice device that aids comprehension, particularly for those well-versed with the novel, but it comes across awkwardly.
What comes across more often is the inventiveness in this interpretation. Take, for instance, the various replicas of ships and boats. From the tiny canoes that Adinolfi maneuvers with a standard-size harpoon to the ship replica with mast and retracting cloth sales, everything is engineered and used to immerse the audience in the story's excitement and fun. The white whale even makes an appearance—a white sheet and wooden planks have never been this majestic and all-consuming.
In sixty-five minutes, The Whale recreates an American classic, allowing us to see it through a child's eyes, but still retaining some of the more adult themes. This production feels like a complete representation of Moby Dick, even though it focuses more on the obsession and revenge than the racism and politics of the novel. More importantly, with all the work Philippi and Adinolfi have put in, it’s completely passionate, too.
The Whale (65 minutes, no intermission)
Barrow St. Theatre (27 Barrow Street, New York, NY )
Tickets: $20 http://www.smarttix.com/
Through January 25
According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.