Review: Moby Dick

This past weekend, we saw Lookingglass Theater’s production of Moby Dick. I’ve seen three productions there including Alice in Wonderland and this production was my favorite of the three. Moby Dick has gotten great reviews and has sold out all the remaining shows. It ends this week.

Moby Dick  is one of these books I never thought I’d read or even be interested in. But after conducting an interview with cartoonist and designer, Marnie Galloway, earlier this summer, I’ve been quite curious. She told me about how funny the book is. Then my coworker told me about a podcast of the Big Read that goes chapter by chapter with a different actor. The first chapter is read by Tilda Swinton. Stephen Fry and even Benedict Cumberbatch read chapters. So since then I’ve listening to it chapter by chapter. I’m only at chapter 46 but I’ve been enjoying it. The characters are fun, the descriptions are gorgeous. It’s an interesting tale and yeah, there’s humor. It’s dry but I like dry humor. I’m sorry that I didn’t finish it before the play but that’s okay. When it came to the play, I had read ⅓ of it.

I love lines like this: “Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off–then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.”

I dig it.

Lookingglass’ Moby Dick was great. It was engaging. While it was a longer play, 2.5 hours, I didn’t feel the time passing. I was always surprised when it was time for another intermission (there are two). They managed to combine circus and narrative in an excellent way. My fiance and I have talked about this problem. Most circus shows either try to be variety shows or have loose plots with circus intervals. That was my big issue with the two other shows at Lookingglass. I loved the Alice in Wonderland but it did feel a little disjointed. Here’s plot and now hula hoops! It was more pronounced with The Little Prince, which is one of my favorite books. It got rather tiresome at times, which is odd considering the theater’s desire to be whimsical and imaginative.

But Moby Dick managed the tension well. Characters frequently climbed up poles, hung from the rafters, etc. It worked well since the action mostly took place on a ship so naturally people climb on things. There was only one prolonged piece but it worked in the plot. I don’t want to reveal some of the inspired moments. You just have to experience them. Overall, I think they got a lot of the mood and setting right. They even managed to get in some of the asides that Ishmael takes the reader, which made me very happy. The acting was spot on; everyone was well cast. With this new mixture, I’m excited to see what Lookingglass has in mind for Treasure Island. Then again, it’s Mary Zimmerman’s production so it should be amazing.

So while Moby Dick is sold out, check out the free podcast. It’s pretty awesome.

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