Finally saw a production of Moby Dick Rehearsed, which I'd been wanting to for a long time. I'm still absorbing the experience in my head, but it was a very impressive performance by The Acting Company, which is doing a nationwide tour with it, along with Shakespeare's The Tempest. Here's the rest of their itinerary:
Mar 18 Parkersburg, WV West Virginia University Moby
Mar 19 Bloomington, IN Indiana University Auditorium Temp
Mar 20 Cincinnati, OH Aronoff Center Moby
Mar 25 Raleigh, NC Stewart Theatre - NC State University Center Stage Moby
Mar 27-30 West Palm Beach, FL Kravis Center for the Performing Arts Moby, Temp
Apr 1 Jacksonville, FL UNF Fine Arts Center Temp
Apr 5-6 Fairfax, VA Center for the Arts - George Mason University Moby, Temp
Apr 9 Duxbury, MA Duxbury Performing Arts Center Moby
Apr 11-12 Queens, NY Queens Theatre in the Park Temp
Apr 13 Keene, NH Colonial Theater Moby
Apr 15 Orono, ME Maine Center for the Arts - Univ. of Maine Moby
Apr 16 Portland, ME Merrill Auditorium at City Hall Moby
Apr 18 Burlington, VT Flynn Center for the Performing Arts Temp
Apr 20 Great Barrington, MA Mahaiwe PAC Theater Temp
Apr 21 Ithaca, NY State Theater of Ithaca Temp
Apr 23 Manchester, NH St. Anselm College Moby
Apr 25 New Bedford, MA Zeiterion Theater Moby
Apr 26 Poughkeepsie, NY Bardavon Opera House Temp
May 1 New London, CT Connecticut College Moby
May 3-4 Hampton, VA American Theatre Moby, Temp
May 6-17 New York, NY Baruch Performing Arts Center Full Rep
Here's the Wall Street Journal review, again by Mr. Teachout:
Welles and the White Whale
By TERRY TEACHOUT
February 8, 2008; Page W7
When I was a boy, Broadway shows toured -- and not just musicals, either. Many of the most popular theatrical productions of the 20th century went on the road, often with casts comparable in quality to the original ones seen in New York. Today, though, it's far less common for big-budget stagings of straight plays to tour. To be sure, the Roundabout Theatre Company's "Twelve Angry Men" continues to make the rounds (it opens next Tuesday in Des Moines, Iowa). For the most part, though, the road shows that travel from city to city nowadays are middlebrow musicals like "The Producers" and "Wicked." As for the barnstorming troupes that used to criss-cross the country, the rise of regional theater has largely killed them off, save for the Shakespeare festivals that send bus-and-truck shows to local communities -- and the New York-based Acting Company, whose productions of Orson Welles's "Moby-Dick -- Rehearsed" and "The Tempest" are playing this week in Tacoma, Wash., after which they'll be seen in 40 more cities from coast to coast.
Seth Duerr in 'Moby Dick Rehearsed'
Founded in 1972 by John Houseman and Margot Harley, the Acting Company gives promising young actors and actresses a chance to appear in high-quality professional productions that tour throughout the U.S. Kevin Kline, Patti LuPone and David Ogden Stiers are its best-known alumni, which speaks well for its track record. The sets are simple but good, the repertory highbrow. (I first saw Jean Anouilh's "Antigone," for instance, in an Acting Company production directed by Alan Schneider that came to Kansas City, Mo., in 1978.) The company wraps up its tours in New York instead of launching them there, which is why I've never reviewed any of its shows. This season, though, it hit the ground running at Connecticut's Fairfield University, close enough to Manhattan for me to drive up and catch "Moby-Dick -- Rehearsed." I was greatly impressed.
First performed in London in 1955, Orson Welles's blank-verse adaptation of Herman Melville's novel is a product of his wilderness years, the period when the creator of "Citizen Kane" had become a pariah in Hollywood. Though he started out as a stage director, Welles later became drunk on the possibilities of the silver screen and never returned to the stage in earnest, preferring to make independent films on an increasingly frayed shoestring. "Moby-Dick -- Rehearsed" was to be one of his rare midlife ventures into the medium that won him his first fame. Never a fluent writer, Welles was an editor of near-genius, and here he uses that skill to create a surprisingly postmodern piece of lyric theater.
The setting is not the Pequod but the near-bare stage of an American theater circa 1890, and the characters are not sailors but members of a touring troupe that is reading through a new stage version of the saga of Captain Ahab (Seth Duerr) and the Great White Whale. In Welles's hands this conceit is not coy but startlingly effective: The outlines of "Moby-Dick" emerge bit by bit out of the idle chatter of a rehearsal, and by intermission the actors, who at first had their doubts about the project, are swept up in the task at hand.
Casey Biggs, best known as a Washington-based stage actor who also played Damar in "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," has directed "Moby-Dick -- Rehearsed" with close and rewarding attention to its lyric quality: The first act is more or less naturalistic, the second act frankly expressionistic, and the transition from one mode to the other is made with seamless stealth. Neil Patel's sketchy set, mysteriously lit by Michael Chybowski, gives the actors all the room they need to spin illusion out of the air, while Fitz Patton's incidental music and sound effects help to ease us out of the everyday world and into the vortex of Ahab's obsession. The young cast speaks Melville's lines with the poise of a seasoned ensemble, and Mr. Duerr's Ahab (which he previously played Off Broadway) is darkly commanding.
"Moby-Dick -- Rehearsed" and its companion production, "The Tempest," come to New York's Baruch Performing Arts Center on May 6 for a week-and-a-half run. Before then they'll be seen all over America. You can view the tour itinerary at the Acting Company's Web site, www.theactingcompany.org. If they're coming to a town anywhere near you, rest assured that an evening spent with them will be very well spent indeed.