MCA: Blair Thomas & Co. Moby Dick

Tickets: $30 Full/$24 MCA Members/$10 Students

Mar 31, 2016, 7:30 pm

Apr 1, 2016, 7:30 pm

Apr 2, 2016, 7:30 pm

Apr 3, 2016, 3 pm

This contemporary interpretation of Herman Melville’s classic reunites a team whose work resonates deeply with the American musical and theater landscape. Puppeteer Blair Thomas, songwriter Michael Smith, and percussionist Michael Zerang bring to life the seemingly impossible-to-stage symbolism of the novel by creating a play within a play that explores the implications of storytelling, tracing Ishmael’s hope that recounting his adventure will deliver his soul. In Thomas’s hands, Melville’s unexpectedly modern advice—about the search for purification and spiritual righteousness being the path to self-destruction and tragedy is allowed imaginative care. Smith’s piquant folk-rock songs and seven versatile actor-puppeteers intone his restless engagement with the book’s tension between the seen and unseen, language and silence, as small figures in the universe, watchers of nature, observers of the folly of humanity and religion. 

In Moby Dick: The Brotherhood of the Monastic Order of Ancient Mariners Purges the Ills of Society through a Reading of the Tales of Moby-Dick, Thomas’s image-based theater makes visible themes, sensations, and environments that are otherwise inaccessible to the actor’s theater. He constructs fully articulated Bunraku puppets using wood and paper. Falling from a masthead, sinking to the ocean floor, they capture human vulnerability in the face of danger. The sung performances to Zerang’s atmospheric percussion suspend competing notions of Puritan fundamentalism and other beliefs over a metaphoric ocean—full of beauty, allure, and terror. Described with encyclopedic detail in Melville’s novel, these ideas are as immediately and deeply felt in Thomas’s production. In the book, Melville searches for words to describe the whale; for Ishmael, the whale can never be seen because once it is caught and pulled from the ocean, it is no longer what it was, and when it is swimming below the surface of the water it is too vast to be conceived. Similarly, this musical puppet theater induces an unsettling distrust in what the eyes see. 

The performance runs approximately two hours with no intermission.