(Hedy Weiss’s article appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, 6/21.)
Lookingglass Theatre’s world premiere production of “Moby Dick” is a triumph of grand theatrical imagination, deep thought, superb acting and eye-popping, ingeniously deployed physical daring. Superbly adapted and directed by David Catlin, who finds the perfect balance of poetry, madness and muscle, the show works a remarkable sea change on Herman Melville’s massive novel, a landmark of world literature. And in this process of transformation and condensation it not only holds fast to the book’s essence, but enhances the dark magic and fever-dream quality of the story.
A tale of obsession, loneliness, self-exile, the quest for vengeance and, of course, the looming presence of mortality and an accompanying vision of hell, “Moby Dick” is biblical in scale (most notably in its evocation of the story of Jonah and the whale) and American to its bone. But even as it rides the waves of all its grand themes, it also manages to home in on intimate relationships — the strange bonds that both hold men together and tear them apart. As a co-production with the Actors Gymnasium, it also is shot through with astonishingly original aerial choreography by Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi, and its fearless, acrobatic cast brilliantly captures the grueling and perilous labor of life aboard a whaling ship.