Theatre review: Inside ‘the Whale’
The Whale, HATTheatre’s entry into the 2014 Acts of Faith Festival thrusts the audience, like Jonah, into the metaphorical belly of the whale.
The Whale portrays an epic struggle between faith and doubt which left me bruised and battered, heartbroken—and ultimately–hopeful.
You’d have to be a rock not to be profoundly moved, even changed, by this magnificent and redemptive tale.
Director Julie Fulcher-Davis brings Samuel D. Hunter’s The Whale to mesmerizing life with a quintet of remarkable actors whose whole-hearted commitment to their characters and the script makes for theater magic.
HATTheatre’s entry into the 2014 Acts of Faith Festival is a tour de force from beginning to end.
Charlie (Michael Hawke) is a morbidly obese man whose grief at the death of his partner has robbed him of his dignity and destroyed most of his relationships. An online expository writing instructor, Charlie’s sole social outlet is teaching a bunch of discontented students the importance of literature. Charlie assigns his students an essay on Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, which is a thread that weaves throughout the play in subtle and profound ways.
As he comes to terms with his impending death, Charlie longs for one last chance at a relationship with his 17-year old daughter, Ellie (Gwyneth Sholar), whom he hasn’t seen since she was two.
Surrounded by this angry, spiteful teenager, his drunken ex-wife Mary (Annie Zannetti), his only friend and caregiver, Liz (Debra Wagoner), and the naive and bumbling Mormon missionary, Elder Thomas (Deejay Gray) Charlie will spend his last breath searching for meaning in the sad and lonely story of his life.
There isn’t a false move throughout nor does the show falter in any way. Each individual performance is stellar, and as an ensemble these five are extraordinary. The sheer physicality of Hawke’s performance is breathtaking.
This review is purposefully devoid of plot specifics. Like a jigsaw puzzle, the play is so intricate that each moment builds upon the next, and even giving away small details would lessen the story’s impact.
Funny and caustic, and achingly human, The Whale is a cautionary tale of what can be done to and by people in the name of religion. It is a stunning entry into the Acts of Faith Festival.
Bravo to all!
The Whale continues with performances on March 6th and 7th at 8:00 p.m. and March 8th at 2:00 p.m. Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at (804) 343-6364.
Julie Harthill Clayton is an out and proud bisexual with a passion for reading, writing . . . and NOT arithmetic. Her work has appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, the Internet Review of Books, Curve Magazine, Lambda Literary and more. She is working on her first novel - Two Tickets to Freedom - a semi-autobiographical queer coming-of-age tale. A paralegal by day, Julie spends her free time knitting, writing, and reading anything she can get her hands on. She lives in Richmond with her partner, local artist David Turner, and their mischievous and loving hunting dog, Max.
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