All Girl Moby Dick at the Mammals | Theater review

A striking storefront adaptation brings us aboard the Pequod.

During the climactic scene of the Mammals’ new all-female adaptation of Herman Melville’s classic novel, narrator Ishmael (Erin Orr) realizes that inside every person is a man and a whale. “I can choose,” Ishmael says, recognizing that the beast he’s been hunting exists within. He urges the audience to repeat the phrase with him, a reminder that the viewer is on this voyage with the rest of the Pequod’s crew; in the 32-seat Zoo Studios space, it’s an intense one.

All Girl Moby Dick boasts impressive production values, particularly in the huge whalebones alongside the set for the Pequod’s hull. Thanks to strong acoustics, even when the stage gets exceedingly noisy, dialogue still comes through clearly. Steampunk shark puppets and Spirited Away–inspired masks by Jill Fredrickson are used to chilling effect, creating an ethereal atmosphere as the whale hunters sail closer to their legendary prey.

There’s nothing inherent in Bob Fisher and Sara Gorsky’s adaptation that requires an all-female cast (next up for the Mammals: a workshop of All Girl Heart of Darkness), but the nine actresses fully commit to the masculine roles; it’s easy to forget the characters are male at all. Amy E. Harmon’s Ahab is the heart and soul of the production, playing the disfigured captain with maniacal glee and crushing sadness. There’s a grin on Ahab’s face when he finally confronts Moby Dick, but his fury burns behind Harmon’s piercing gaze.

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