A Giant White Whale was spotted near the Wharf on November 18.
No ordinary one was it, but the fabulous fabled Moby Dick arriving at Arena Stage!
Chicago’s Lookingglass Theatre Company’s had sailed with the classic nineteenth century Melville novel of New England whalers with their harpoons and ships, into this twenty-first century theater at the Southwest waterfront.
Moby Dick is not just another fish story. That very long Great American novel which many people find unreadable has now taken its legs to the stage.
Lookingglass Theatre Company’s exuberant production while true to Melville’s words and spirit magically interjects both humor and silence into a script that waves between lyrical and dramatic.
Rather than overload the scenery with authentic looking antiques from that era of New England whalers, this staging employs a unifying symbol. A whale’s rib cage defines the ship’s hull, an image which interconnects with whale bones used for women’s hoop skirts.
The choice of bones is apt for the fates of Captain Ahab and the crew of the Pequod is sealed on their whaling ship just as whale oil and products of remaining bones provided for the fortunes of the society dependent on whaling.
Moby Dick has its memorable quotes (“My name is Ishmael” for its opening line) but this production is further filled with unforgettable images.
A woman in a blue-and-black silk dress enters the theater toward the stage, her huge shimmery skirt billows like the vast ocean, covering everything beneath.
Three women like the three Greek fates chant in procession while holding large black ribbed umbrellas to simulate a pod of spouting whales.
Actors acrobatically dancing in air, struggle to keep from drowning in aerial space now transformed to be below the sea, transformed in a flash, like that fragile line between life and death for this crew.
While the necessity for whale oil for light and fuel is as dated as cumbersome hoop skirts, Captain Ahab’s obsessive battle against the forces that be is a theme as old as mankind.
Ahab's refusal to help any human being who would delay his destiny to find that great white whale who haunts him is heartless while the slow gasping death of yet another whale dying at the hands of the harpoonists—portrayed by a woman mime whose silk skirt is stripped like whale meat from the bone, bit by bit revealing the bare skeleton of white whale ribs —heartbreaking.
Alas! Is Captain Ahab a mad man? Is Moby Dick really the monster?
At last! Moby Dick makes his appearance in a surprising way and settles the score with these mere mortals!
Moby Dick was seen leaving Arena after its closing performance Christmas Eve (the day before the Peguod first sailed off in the novel) and heading west after what was another victory for the epic beast, and for this superb ensemble Chicago company.