By Erika Brown Thomas
The Lookingglass Theatre provides an in-your-face experience of the classic American novel Moby Dick that surprises, shocks and intrigues audience members from start to finish.
And for those who have yet to delve into the 135 chapters written by Herman Melville, no worries, reading the book is not a prerequisite for enjoying, understanding or experiencing this story. (That said, a plot summary may be read here.)
Lookingglass Theatre does storytelling unlike any other Chicagoland theatre. Without giving away any spoilers, some of the most visceral and moving moments include the overwhelming sound cues to indicate the presence of a whale or the total absence of sound underwater. When a man goes overboard, the whole audience holds their collective breath with him. Complete with circus feats that plunge the actors into “water” and symbolic set pieces that put the audience in the belly of the whale, this show is a must-see for literary and theatre lovers alike.
David Caitlin (ensemble member, director and adaptor) does what the infamous captain of lore could not—he tackles this whale of a story and succeeda in bringing it all home. The prose, the cetology and the endless descriptions of the sea in this epic are masterfully liquidated into three acts that command attention.
The action of the play is guided and manipulated by Fates #1, 2 & 3 played by (Kelly Abell, Mattie Hawkinson & Cordelia Dewdney respectively), three characters that exist only in the Lookingglass world of Moby Dick. These women serve as narrators and active participants in the plot as well as supplying the complete sound track with voices like sirens that have the ability to calm and soothe while also evoke feelings of terror and extreme unease.
Ishmael (Jamie Abelson at evening performances and Walter Owen Briggs at matinee performances) and Queequeg (Anthony Fleming III) display the indomitable and unexpected friendship that Forrest Gump and Bubba share—two dissimilar men come together to find more similarities than differences. These actors hold their own in a show that is replete with stunts constantly drawing attention to various corners of the stage.
Nathan Hosner (Captain Ahab) and Kareem Bandealy (Starbuck) play a pair that have come together with a seemingly common goal, but instead are driven farther apart as Ahab’s relentless pursuit destroys all he crosses. Hosner’s grasp of the crazed captain is mesmerizing and terrifying.
Micah Figueroa, Raymond Fox and Javen Ulambayar (Cabacao, Stubbs & Mungun) contribute their considerable physical prowess (as do all members of this ensemble play) to make this production come alive with movement from the floor to the ceiling of the theatre space.
The Lookingglass artistic team of David Caitlin, William C. Kirkham (Lighting Designer), Courtney O’Neill (Scenic Designer), Sully Ratke (Costumes), Rick Sims (Sound Designer/Composer), Isaac Schoepp (Rigging Designer), Amanda Herrmann (Properties Designer), Sylvia Hernandez-Distasi (Circus Choreography) and Kathy Logelin (Dialect Coach) have built an incredible and unique theatrical experience. All of their expertise artistically combines incredible storytelling and suspenseful, seemingly unimaginable theatrical effects that leave one breathless and on the edge of his or her seat.
Lookingglass Theatre presents “Moby Dick” through September 17 at 821 N Michigan Ave, Chicago. More information and tickets are available here. Photos by Liz Lauren.