Guest Reviewer Zach Siefert-Ponce is nineteen and will attend his first year of college in September. His passion for writing and interest in Theatre prompted me to invite him to see this show and write his own review. As a recent scholar of Melville, his insights are succinct and relevant.
A Whale of a Tale: Moby Dick Rehearsed at the Lyric Theatre in Hollywood
To those of us who are fond of brilliance, it may seem as though only too much can be said about Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, and the genius of Orson Welles tends to speak for itself. Director Aliah Whitmore skillfully blends the artistry of both in Orson Welles’s Moby Dick Rehearsed, now presented by the Whitmore Eclectic at the Lyric Theatre. This play recounts the plot of Herman Melville’s novel as experienced by an intense young enthusiast, The Young Actor/Ishmael—vigorously played by Dustin Seavey—who insists that parts of this book were meant to be spoken; James Whitmore Jr.’s performance of Father Mapple’s Sermon in the following scene assures us that this is true as the words of Melville swallow the audience whole and the voice that speaks them rains fire and brimstone.
However interesting the play, this production of Moby Dick Rehearsed is not for the lazy audience member. From the beginning the audience is made to understand that more is required of them than usual: the actors bring the characters to life, but it is left to the imagination of the audience to provide the sea and the whale. This is not difficult with the strength of Ishmael’s narrative voice; Seavey’s intensity cuts through the audience’s concentration, as does that of James Whitmore Jr. and Richard Cox.
However, the monologues of the three major speaking roles were written with such strict poetics and attention to detail that any slight mistake stings the ear. Every stammer feels like a stumble and every missed rest like a record skipping. Mistakes were minimal, but noticeable; overall, they are forgivable.
The timeless passages and monologues of Moby Dick are brought to life with authenticity and all of the Gothic Realism that is signature to the style of Herman Melville. The play stays true to the words of Melville which are delivered with an intensity that transcends volume. The major speaking roles are those of James Whitmore Jr. as Captain Ahab, Dustin Seavey as Ishmael, and Richard Cox as Starbuck, all of whom capture the very essence of their characters. The remainder of the cast embodies the entire crew, whether on or off stage, with a mix of general whale ship sounds and caricatured representations—most notably Flask’s feistiness, which is embodied by Andrew Patton’s mustache, and Kate McManus’s portrayal of Pip, whose tone of voice seems to always be saying “remember, I’m a little black boy.”
At times, due to the proportions of the stage, all of the actors are crossing each other’s paths at once, weaving in and out of each other’s way. The stage becomes so busy with movement that the audience is not certain who or what to watch. Director Aliah Whitmore capitalizes on this organized confusion and the audience finds that their eyes are beginning to follow their ears; people with stiff necks should consider waiting for their pain to subside before making their visit to see this play as it will be showing through August 28th.
The grim authenticity of Melville’s work is palpable with the first glimpse of the stage. The stage itself has limitations in its depth as well as its lighting, but to master one’s limitations is to create one’s own style. It is obvious from the first scene that a harmony of relationship exists between the director and the building itself. What the stage lacks in depth it more than makes up for in width which may prove to be a hindrance to most other directors who do not possess the personal understanding of a stage that Aliah Whitmore has with her own.
Complete with lofty speeches and talented directing, the tableaus of frozen faces make this production priceless, let alone worth twenty dollars; this production of Moby Dick Rehearsed is a fun time for any active imagination.
Moby Dick Rehearsed by Orson Welles
Directed by Aliah Whitmore
The Whitmore Eclectic
The Lyric Theater
520 N. La Brea Ave
Los Angeles, Ca 90036
Tickets and Information
Thursdays through Saturdays at 8PM
Sundays at 3PM
Closes August 28th