Herman Melville’s novel rushes headlong to reveal its treasures: an audacious jumble of conventional narrative, lyrical musings, quasi-academic essays, and dramatic dialogues barely held together by an impossible narrator with exhaustive knowledge of classical mythology, Bible stories, Western philosophy, and whaling jurisprudence. Adapter-director Blake Montgomery lops off more than half the book (no Queequeg, Pip, or Fedallah, for starters) but holds fast to its proto-deconstructionist impulse. Six actors with the pallid faces and matted hair of waterlogged corpses play all the roles, sometimes the same one at once: six Ishmaels try to get the story started but repeatedly interrupt one another to deliver delicious bits of whaling arcana. When one actor becomes lost in Ahab’s madness, the others cautiously intervene as though talking someone off a ledge. In the first act–an alluring, heady ride fueled by live drumming–Montgomery dramatizes the impossibility of dramatizing Melville’s story. The relatively straightforward second act is flat by comparison, but the finale–Ahab’s death–is inspired. a Through 12/2: Fri-Sat 8 PM, Sun 7 PM, Building Stage, 1044 W. Kinzie (enter at 412 N. Carpenter), 312-491-1369, $10-$20.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Flynn.