“Moby Dick.” You can almost hear the groan of students through every classroom and lecture hall in America. The famous novel written by Herman Melville wasn’t exactly an overnight success—at the time of Melville’s death in 1891, it was a commercial failure and out of print. In the 1920s, scholars rediscovered the epic tale and it quickly earned a spot on the list of the great American novels.
In a time where attention spans are decreasing and people are becoming more and more inundated with thousands of media pieces on a daily basis, critics of the story find the over 800-page piece to be too “heavy” or “difficult to digest.” Insert the aforementioned griping here.
But on the Alliance Stage, Chicago’s Lookingglass Theatre Company in association with Actors Gymnasium is ready to challenge everything you know, love or even dislike about the epic legend.
In an effort to cater to the busy theatre patron with the full schedule, here are five reasons why you should strongly consider spending an afternoon or evening on the Pequod.
Cirque de Theatre
While one may not associate high-flying acrobatics with classic literature, there are some ingenious souls that do (and we thank them for that). Experience the high seas through the powerful medium of dance. Witness the struggle of man when he finds himself at death’s door. Behold the transformation of a mighty ship as it embarks on a magnificent journey. The actors swing about the stage as if it’s the most intuitive action for them to do. It works and boy, it’s an awe-inspiring sight.
Straight Outta Chicago
Recipient of the 2011 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre Company has generated a solid national reputation for its innovation and cutting-edge theatrical works, pushing the boundaries of experiential art with a purpose. Working hand in hand with the Alliance, this mash-up of creators explode the perceived glass ceiling of what can or cannot be done in the theatre.
While Melville’s story is considered to be a masterpiece, he sure missed out on an important element: women. The only two female characters in the plot are two servants (and wives that are only discussed through dialogue). In director David Catlin’s adaptation, women play a pivotal role in the action. Three actresses play a variety of parts onstage including servants, lost souls, sirens, fate, and even whales. Their haunting singing voices will ring in your head long after the house lights come up.
A Feast for the Senses
What does it sound like when a monstrous whale appears in front of a ship? What does it feel like to be swallowed by the depths of the ocean? With avant-garde uses of sound, you’re right there in the action. And there might be a whimsical surprise or two for the audience itself. You’ll find out soon enough.
Ishmael: Sailor and Comedian?
Even more preposterous-sounding than the circus arts, “Moby Dick” is not known for its hilarious tone. But director David Catlin and his actors squeeze every last drop of comedy the piece can muster. There are some wonderful moments between the serious drama and the revenge plot points that make your insides fill up with laughter. Another unexpected gem in a reimagined show.
“Moby Dick” at the Alliance is an experience. Throw away any preconceived notions. The journey is nothing like you remembered. But don’t be frightened—Captain Ahab and his crew carry you through until the very end. www.alliancetheatre.org/mobydick