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A CurtainUp Review

Moby Dick
By Eunice Marquet

Drink and swear, ye men that man the deathful whaleboat's bow -- Death to Moby Dick!
--- Ahab
Michael Berry
Michael Berry
(Photo: Julian Rad )
Julian Rad has adapted Herman Melville's classic novel for Works Productions. The Ohio Theatre provides a clean and elegant backdrop for the production. The simple set, which consisted of four tall wooden ladders along with the hardwood floors and long billowy curtains, creates the distinct impression of being aboard a large ship.

With the young mariner Ishmael to narrate, we follow the ill-fated whaling crew of the Pequod on their final, fateful voyage. After a lifetime of whaling, this marks the first commission for Captain, Ahab since he lost his leg in an attack by the mythical white whale known as Moby Dick. The loss of his limb has left Ahab with an all-consuming passion for vengeance. His obsessive determination to bring down the white whale turns this once respected leader into a raving madman who will stop at nothing to exact his retribution, including the willingness to risk the lives of his crew.

Traditional seafaring songs that are beautifully sung by the eight-man cast are woven throughout the story. While these songs are the most effective element of the production, at times they distract from the story itself. Christopher Kelly, who plays Ishmael, routinely resorts to yelling his monologues in order to be heard over the chorus.

Michael Berry's strong and confident portrayal of Starbuck, the First Mate is poignant and likeable. Christopher Kelly embodies the fresh and eager spirit of Ishmael. Playwright Julian Rad gives a somewhat inconsistent performance as the Native American harpooner Queequeg. William Metzo's performance as the legendary Captain Ahab should stand out but is disappointing. At times he seemed to be searching for his lines and it appears his boisterous overtures are just compensating for his lack of passion.

The prevailing problem with this Moby Dick is that it lacks blood and guts. A play that takes its characters around the world in a quest to satiate a blood lust, needs a more powerful buildup towards its climax. As directed by Hillary Adams, Moby Dick hints at the rumblings of obsession, but fails to rise to the drama of its tragic conclusion.
Any adaptation of such a well-known work of literature entails a lot of expectations. These remain unfortunately unmet by this production.

Moby Dick
Based on the novel by Herman Melville and adapted Julian Rad
Directed by Hilary Adams
Cast: Christopher Kelly (Ishmael), Michael Berry (Starbuck), Michael Shawn Montgomery (Stubb), Julian Rad (Queequeg), Antony Ferguson (Peleg), Joesph Melendez (Elijah), Eirik Gislason (Flask), William Metzo (Ahab)
Lighting/Sound Design: Julian Rad
Costume Design: Laura Crow
Running time: 2 hours, one intermission
Ohio Theatre, 66 Wooster St., 212/ 414-5286
9/4/03 to 9/21/03; opening 9/6/03
Tuesday through Saturday at 8PM-- $15
Reviewed by Eunice Marquet based on September 5th performance

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