A number of adaptations of Moby Dick or The Whale are at the Fringe this year, marking the bicentennial of Herman’s Melville’s birth. Ross Ericson of Grist to the Mill Productions is on stage delivering a solo show as Ishmael. Taking this novel to stage is a bold undertaking. It is a well-known and well-loved work about the all-consuming obsession of one man against a beast.
The play is split up into four acts, each taking up about a quarter of an hour. The story is told as is in the book, from the point of view of Ishmael. He is the only survivor of Pequod, the whaling ship. Captain Ahab is determined to get revenge for the loss of his leg from the whale, and refuses to see reason against his steely determination. The crew try to rally around their Captain, and do their duty until the very end, as Ishmael tells the audience. But they are never able to rise up to the single-minded obsession that Ahab has, which consumes him entirely. Lovers of the book will enjoy the familiarity of the characters – Starbuck, Fedallah the Parsee and Queequeg. A number of memorable dialogues are in it too – the unpredictability of human fate, the descriptions of the whale, and finally, the prophecy of the hearse.
But despite a very talented actor, the script falls short of creating a crescendo to the final ‘battle’ scene. There is a lack of build up. The third act weakens the force of the final one. Ericson also seems unsure of parts of the script and there is repetition of monologue as well as some mixed up sentences. But with a venue that really was rather warm, a few misses are pardonable in the searing heat!
This is a good show to watch. The performer is likely to become more familiar with the script with more revision. And the enduring tale of the taste of revenge as a driving force is truly standout.