Saturday, December 02, 2006

Moby Dick II: The Actor's Nightmare Revisited

I'm tipsy from a benefit party cranberry lambic. (Your faithful correspondent is one of Chicago's greatest lightweights.) I'm happy to be home again, swathed in cashmere, drinking lemon-ginger drink and rubbing my wind-prickled face. I wanted to quickly log in, and let you all know that last night I faced my fears. I went to see the Building Stage's adaptation of Moby Dick.

Quick background. Over a year ago I had the classic actor's nightmare- you know, the one where you show up somewhere and everyone expects you to be in a play. In this case, the play was a symbolist Moby Dick being put up in a industrial loft of some kind. Devoted fans will remember that I kicked that dream's butt.

When I heard about the Building Stage's physical theatre, devised, rope- entangled adaptation of the book, playing in their west loop converted industrial space, I knew I had to see it, if only to tempt fate. (Captain Ahab knows that prophetic dreams are important.) I went one night before closing. No stage manager approached me screaming about my call. No actors pulled me on stage. I was called Ishmael by no-one. I was relieved, and disappointed.

The show itself was good, but not as good as "Dustbowl Gothic." They spent a lot of time on action, spectacle and stage pictures that just didn't drop the jaw. If they don't drop the jaw, don't spend too much time on them. They also seemed to think that narrator Ishmael was a wide-eyed innocent. In the novel, his syntax is his character, and that ain't it. He's a delicate mixture of sarcastic and laconic and loquacious, the kind of complete wash-up that you'd love to have a beer with. Maybe a lambic.


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