Moby Dick by Herman Melville, adapted by Conor Lovett and Judy Hegarty Lovett, ArtsEmerson and Gare St. Lazare Players, The Jackie Liebergott Black Box at the Paramount Center, 11/7/11-11/12/11, http://alturl.com/z4pzz.
Reviewed by Gillian Daniels
“Call me Ishmael,” performer Conor Lovett begins casually.
His hour and forty-five minute monologue makes up the whole of the Gare St. Lazare Players’ adaptation of Moby Dick. The way Lovett relates the story based on Herman Melville’s novel is restrained and often timid, however. His Ishmael is a lost soul, marked by events he’s still struggling to parse.
A somber atmosphere is established and maintained by a violin player (Caoimhin O’Raghallaigh) who mainly shies away from traditional melody. He instead kicks off the show with a moody, undulating rhythm. The audience may imagine they have been transported to a quiet, ill-lit bar where a regular with a hesitant demeanor begins a rambling story about his time at sea.
Lovett spins the tale of the voyage as only a survivor of such a story can try to tell it. Defined by a character that, here, has been interpreted as an introvert, he gives a low-key but mesmerizing performance. Moments of furious passion bleed through his tale, particularly when he describes Captain Ahab and the character’s fanatical search for the whale that took his leg.
Moby Dick is thoroughly divorced from the pop culture behemoth it has become and is instead stripped down to what it always was: a story about the tumult of going out to sea.
Fans of the novel will delight in the dark turns of the story. Audiences with short attention spans, however, would do well to pass this production by unless they’re in the mood to experience a much more restrained form of theater. This play probably isn’t for the casual viewer looking for a wild night out. During the course of the show, several audience members seemed to realize this and leave. Those who stayed enjoyed an enthralling, if solemn, yarn.