Review: Moby Dick (Lookingglass Theatre, 2017)

| July 1, 2017

Anthony Fleming III, Nathan Hosner, Micah Figueroa and  Mattie Hawkinson            

Moby Dick
Adapted/Directed by David Catlin
  from novel by Herman Melville
Lookingglass Theatre, 821 N. Michigan (map)
thru Sept 3  |  tix: $45-$80  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets   


A visually and sonically stunning ‘Moby’
will have you feeling the ocean’s mighty force


Anthony Fleming III, Nathan Hosner, Jamie Abelson, Cordelia Dewdney, Kelley Abell and Mattie Hawkinson,

Lookingglass Theatre i/a/w Actors Gymnasium presents
Moby Dick

Review by Duane Barnes

This production, both adapted (from the classic Herman Melville novel) and directed by David Catlin, is as big as the Leviathan pursued. The pursuer, Captain Ahab (Nathan Hosner), is a giant of a captain, roaring in his demonizing of The White Whale that had crushed his ship and taken his leg in the process. The stage, as you enter the theater, is Jonah-like in its immensity, creatively conjuring up the endless ocean on which the whaling ship, the Pequod, with its captain and crew, will relentlessly pursue its quarry. The experience of a frightening storm is beautifully created and Moby Dick’s appearance is a marvel as well. These are theatrical gifts to behold.

Anthony Fleming III, Nathan Hosner, Micah Figueroa and  Mattie HawkinsonThe characters that carry this sea-going drama are big as well. Supporting Ahab is his first mate, Starbuck (Kareem Bandealy) who is the voice of reason in an oceanic voyage that no one but Ahab has envisioned, a voice of reason in Ahab’s non-discerning ear – but to no avail. And the crew, ah, a collection of whalers that have joined up to take on all that the oceans have to offer, hunt whales, barrel the oil and sail home looking forward to a rich reward and renewed relations with their families awaiting them in Nantucket. Ishmael (Jamie Abelson, with Walter Owen Briggs at matinee performances), is an exception, a sailor, not a whaler, who narrates the tale and opens the play with the famous line, “Call me Ishmael”. Others, who will be sorely pressed to survive, include Cabaco (Micah Figueroa), Stubbs (Raymond Fox) and Mungun (Javen Ulambayar), crew members, excited to be plying their trade and eagerly looking forward to the rewards of their whale hunting. And there is Queequeg (Anthony Fleming III), a sharp contrast to his mates in every way – his dress, a fur coat that expresses the far-away land from which he comes, a tall-ish beaver top hat; his way of communicating, un-Nantucket-like; and his accoutrements, a tomahawk pipe and an ever-ready harpoon. And lastly, another piece of equipment wherever he goes: his coffin which, for him, serves many purposes. “What purposes?” you ask. You’ll have to buy a ticket to discover for yourself.

Another creation the play presents are the Three Fates (Kelly Abell, Cordelia Dewdney and Mattie Hawkinson), characters from another world who issue warnings and foretell of dangers. And on occasion, they insert themselves to ethereally help transport the mariners on their perilous journey. My sense, at times however, is that their presence is overdone in that their lines sometimes conflict with the dialogue on stage. Yet, at other times, their characters are very effective, particularly during the Storm of Storms and notably at the end of the performance.

Kareem Bandealy, Jamie Abelson,  Anthony Fleming III,  Raymond Fox and Micah FigueroaNathan Hosner stars in Moby Dick, Lookingglass Theatre Nathan Hosner and Raymond FoxCordelia Dewdney, Mattie Hawkinson, Kelley Abell, and Javen Ulambayar

Visually, the play is stunning. The scenic design (Courtney O’Neill) projects the size of the play the audience is to view. Sully Ratke’s costumes are historically perfect for each character, delineating one from another. The sound design (Rick Sims) throughout the play captures the fury and dangers of this doomed voyage, while the lighting design, by William C. Kirkham, alternates between the calm of a partly sunny day to the frenzy of powerful forces tearing at the Pequod’s sails. Isaac Schoepp designed the rigging worthy of the Pequod, the H.M.S. Bounty or any other sea-going vessel of that time, adding to the realism of the story. The longboats, oared by the Pequod crew are one of the many effective props delivered by Amanda Herrmann. The accents, harnessed by dialect coach Kathy Logelin, are spot on save for the preacher, who dearly needed a New England accent – the Pequod was from Nantucket after all. And lastly, a “shout-out” to whomever came up with the process to present an ocean both calm and frenzied. He/she deserves an ovation!

This reviewer felt the play a little too long and might have been tightened up in the first two acts. But the third act rescues it with a powerful visual as the forces of wind and water, and Moby Dick, converge on the captain and crew with diabolical force. And that scene leaves the audience in an exhausted heap as the tale came to an almost silent conclusion. It’s worth it all.

Rating: ★★★

Moby Dick continues through September 3rd at Water Tower Water Works, 821 N. Michigan (map), with performances Wednesdays 7:30pm, Thursdays 2pm & 7:30pm, Fridays 7:30pm, Saturdays and Sundays 2pm & 7:30pm.  Tickets are $45-$80 (with $20 student tickets day of performance), and are available by phone (312-337-0665) or online through their website (check for availability of half-price tickets). More info at time: 2 hours 35 minutes, includes two intermissions)

Kareem Bandealy, Jamie Abelson,  Anthony Fleming III and Raymond Fox

Photos by Liz Lauren




Kareem Bandealy (Starbuck), Nathan Hosner (Ahab), Anthony Fleming III (Queequeg), Raymond Fox (Stubb, Captain Boomer, Captain Gardiner), Jamie Abelson (Ishmael – evening performances), Micah Figueroa (Cabaco, Captain of New Bedford Whaleship), Javen Ulambayar (Mungun), Kelly Abell (Fate #1, Innkeeper), Walter Owen Briggs (Ishmael – matinee performances), Cordelia Dewdney (Fate #3, Mary Starbuck, Crone), Mattie Hawkinson (Fate #2, Sea Fate, Cetologist)

behind the scenes

David Catlin (director, adaptor), Courtney O’Neill (scenic design), Sully Ratke (costume design), William C. Kirkham (lighting design), Rick Sims (sound design, composer), Isaac Schoepp (rigging design), Amanda Herrmann (props design), Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi (circus choreographer), Kathy Logelin (dialect coach), Jeri Frederickson (stage manager), Katharine Adams (asst. stage manager), Liz Lauren (photos)

Mattie Hawkinson, Kelley Abell, Javen Ulambayar and Cordelia Dewdney


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Category: 2017 Reviews, Actors Gymnasium, Adaptation, Duane Barnes, Extensions-Remounts, Lookingglass, Video, Water Tower Water Works, YouTube

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