Photo by Don Kellogg

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Whale

A brutally honest, raw, and sad tale told by Samuel D. Hunter over on 42nd Street at Playwrights Horizons.  What do you get when you combine a morbidly obese man, an estranged daughter, a deeply guarded secret, a young Mormon boy, and a mysteriously  connected lady-friend?    That's a lot to be simmering just below the surface.  Under Davis McCallum's direction, The Whale slowly simmers, occasionally bubbles and eventually erupts into a full boil just as the curtain falls.

Charlie (Shuler Hensley), literally inflated in a humongous fat-suit, does a shockingly realistic job at portraying a 600 pound man on the verge of a "natural" death due to his weight.  In his final days, he wishes to reconcile with his estranged wife and daughter he last saw when she was a baby.  Why has he grown to this size?  What has driven his eating?  Enter stage left, Liz (Rebecca Henderson).  She's his life-line, a friend with an attachment we only come to know later after we meet Elder Thomas (Cory Michael Smith), a young Mormon missionary who eventually crosses paths with Charlie's young,  angry, and introverted daughter, Ellie (Reyna De Courcy) and her mother, Mary (Tasha Lawrence).

As the tale wrapped in allegorical references to Moby Dick unfolds, the proverbial plot thickens and the reasons and root causes we have all been waiting for begin to unfold.  Jane Cox (lighting) and Fritz Patton (sound design) deserve a shout-out for the excellent mood-heightening effects of the belly of the whale.