Moby Dick, the tale of Captain Ahab, his ship the Pequad, and his hunt for the white whale, is an American story that is probably best known for being a book assignment that is dreaded by high school students across the nation. I had never read the book and was not very familiar with the story before walking into Fallout Arts Initiative Co-op in order to see Theatre Coup d’Etat’s adaptation of this classic. Walking out I feel like I got a completely fresh telling of this story.
I have grown to know Theatre Coup d’Etat as a company whose strength is in amplifying drama through high level performances and a great amount of physicality. Their use of and selection of the space for their specific shows feels innovative. Their approach to storytelling evolves with Moby Dick. Coup d’Etat’s Moby Dick seems to lean more on words than on the shows physicality. Yet despite this the choreography of the scenes were still my favorite parts. The way that the ship came together, the way that ropes and crates were used in so many different ways, and the mesmerizing beauty of the whale hunting scenes highlighted Coup d’Etat’s strengths. On the other side of things I felt as though at points the dialogue got lost in its wordiness. I cared about what was being said but started to fade out after a while.
Where Theatre Coup d’Etat really excelled and showed growth was in the casting. From an audience member’s prospective, race and gender were not taken into account in deciding how the roles would be cast, but instead only the talents and ability of the actor. And why not? It is not important that Ishmael and Starbuck are men? To me as an audience member nothing about the way that the show was cast felt token-y, I particularly appreciated the fact that the characters were written to match both the story's intent and the actors playing them. The story comes across just as well if not better, because when you have a diverse cast on stage you are able to connect with a more diverse audience. All that being said I still don’t know how to feel about Queequeg. The character is important to the story but at the same time is a character that would not exist in a story told today regardless of when it was set. The character and how they are portrayed runs the risk of at the very least being culturally incentive. I feel as though Theatre Coup d’Etat treated the character with respect, but I still couldn’t help feeling uncomfortable and wondering if “this” is okay.
In the end Moby Dick is a wonder ensemble show, the entire group of performers work and move together well. Theatre Coup d’Etat delivered on their history of high drama and impressive physicality.
The show is performing at the Fall Out Arts Initiative Co-Op through November 20th.
Information on tickets can be found by clicking here.
*Photo Courtesy of Theatre Coup d'Etat