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August 10, 1998 - Image 10

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 1998-08-10

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Second half saves
Network's 'Moby'


By Mike Galloway
Daily Arts Editor
How do you put the story of one
man's obsessive quest across a vast
ocean in search of a giant, elusive white
whale on a theatrical stage? Well, in
today's Broadway, you'd probably get
huge, rotating sets, a mechanical, ani-
matronic whale and have a lively musi-
cal score.
Or you get Orson Welles to write the
script and have the dialogue, acting and
the audience's imagination provide the
Welles'"Moby Dick Rehearsed," put
on by the Performance Network,
involves no costumes, no scenery and
few props, and yet still suggests to the
audience that a white whale is being
hunted, if done just right.
Unfortusately, the first half of the
Perfomace Network's production on
opening night was inadequate. For the
most part, the actors seemed like they
were merely reciting lines, and the
interactions between them was strained
to say the least.
Although the Production Network
players' second act was a complete tum
around and made the play well-worth
the money, the first act, and especially'
the beginning, is instrumental in-estab-
lishing the play's greater depth of
Welles's play begins aith a 19th-cen-
tury Skakespearian acting troupe
which is taking on a 'ne a script" based
on Melville's- Mobx Dick." instead ofl
performing "King Lear"
The actors go through a dress
rehearsal wearing their street clothes
and xithout make-up or sets, so before
this acting troupe gives the perfor-
mance of "Moby Dick," the audience
gets to see into who these 19th-century
actors are oilstage.
Or that's what should happen, but the
Performance Network's players didn't
pull the first half of the performance
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of. The rest of the show provides con-
stant reminders that this is a dress
For instance, Pip, the African-
American boy who goes mad, is read
by a caucasian woman. The Stage
Manager often reads prologues to the
scene. Finally, the Governor, who is
playing Captain Ahab, has not finished
leaming his lines and so he carries the
script around with hins and reads from
it often.
Without a good performance of that
first scene, all of these things become
curious inconsistencies instead of
clever reminders that this is a play-
within-a-play (to borrow from
"Hamlet" criticism) and only a dress
rehearsal of one at that.
But the second half compared with
the first was like night and day (or per-
haps better, day and night). The first
hint of a change in the quality of the
performance came with Karen M.
Foran's performance of the young
actress as Pip.
Foran instantly grabbed the audi-
ence's attention, incredibly and con-
vincingly portray ing a young black
cabin 1 w whose mad visions and ram-
blings preordain his oxn death.
Rob Sulewski as the (oxernor play-
ing Ahab started out as the strongest
role in the play (which isn't saying
much), and though he was somewhat
overshadowed b others at times, his
performance gained strength through-
James Ingagiola. the serious actor
play inig the ship's first mate,
Starbuck, deserves praise, as does
David Woler for playing Ishmael.
Wolber was especially good narrating
the action for the audience through
Ishmael's eyes as Ahab and the crew
of the Pequod finally face the great
white whale.
last but certainly not least. Scott
Hoye as the newspaper-toting actor
playing Stubbs, the ship's boisterous
second isate, xwas a wonderful comic
And all the play's performances in
the second half easily created the illu-
sion that these men and one woman
were on a ship, hunting and fighting a
whale. In fact, the play was pretty
damn edge suspensful by its end.
The only flaw in the second half
was that all the lights in the house
were shut off when certain scenes
couldn't be acted out (like the whale
come up beneath the boat and break-
ing it apart). With Ishmael providing
commentary on all that was happening
in these moments, it would have been
better if a single spotlight remained on
him to give the audience something to
look at.
Otherwise, the second half came off
with out a hitch. Perhaps the second
half, being much more dramatic, was
easier to act, or maybe the problems
were due to opening night jitters.
With an opening half as good as its
successor, "Moby Dick Rehearsed"
would be a truly praiseworthy and
can't miss production.





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