Orson Welles’ stage adaptation of Herman Melville’s novel is a distinctly American play, portraying Ahab as the single-minded leader convinced of his righteousness who inspires his multinational crew to conquer nature and destroy the object of his hatred. Uncertainty and weakness are as much to be hated as the whale that took his leg. The play’s aesthetic sense is wrapped up in the pragmatism of the job that has to be done, whether it’s hunting the whale or producing a play. Neither philosophy nor history are mentioned but only a vague fundamentalism that lurks darkly unarticulated in the work’s unconscious. Welles’ gritty blank-verse script supplies the actors with a determined vocabulary.
Rod Knapp plays the peg-legged captain with a fine rage that rarely cools down to a conversational level. The large cast learns to echo his fury and hatred while playing at the edge of the abyss of death.
The energetic cast includes Andre Amarotico, Dante Belletti, Noemi Ola Berkowitz, Timothy James Borgerson, Christopher Prescott Carter, Sarah Gage, Weston Gaylord, Ryan Hayes, Maia Kazin, Kaya McRuer, Louis McWilliams, David Raymond, Peter Ruocco, and Courtney Walsh.
Erin Bauman, Annie Dauber, Tracy Hazas, Michael Keck, Elizabeth Knarr, Matt Lathrop, Michael Ramsaur, Julia Starr, Connie Strayer, Reno Tsosi, Alison Valentine, Audrey Moyce, Kristen Dekker and Brigitte Wittmer worked behind the scenes to make it happen. Rush Rehm directed.
The improvised stage and the play-within-a-play accent the performative quality of the work. You know you’re in a theatre. The actors include the context of the own lives, making the play larger. This production realizes Brecht’s epic theatre project.
Don’t miss this rarely produced and unusual play!
Moby Dick Rehearsed plays at the Piggott Theatre on the Stanford campus until August 10, 2014.