BWW Review: ALBATROSS Is A Soaring Theatrical Experience ~ Benjamin Evett Is Mesmerizing
On the one wing, we know of the albatross as an elegant and stately diving bird. On the other, thanks largely to Samuel Taylor Coleridge's epic poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the word connotes a heavy burden around one's neck. The metaphor derives from the old seaman's cruel killing of the bird and the woes that befall him in the wake of his action. The allegory feeds the theme of Matthew Spangler and Benjamin Evett's illuminating and provocative play, ALBATROSS, now on stage in an all too short run at the Herberger Theater Center.
There's a timeless message embedded in the playwrights' work ~ that every action, including the callous disregard of nature and the extinguishing of wildlife, ripples with consequences. The Mariner (Evett) in ALBATROSS bears the cross of this inescapable truth and reminds us through his own travails of the interrelatedness of all things, of our own vulnerability as a species, and of the moral imperative to revere and care for our fellow creatures. Indeed, the banality of the evil that we do, often so mindlessly, is stunningly revealed in his explanation for slaughtering the lovely seabird: "I don't know."
Mr. Evett is a force of nature in the tempest-tossed odyssey that severs him from the docks and bars of Bristol and from his long-ailing son and consigns him to forced service as a navigator on the ship of the ruthless Black Dog. His performance as chronicler of his soul's journey to revelation is gritty and raw, witty and salty, gutsy and mesmerizing. For a full eighty-five minutes, Evett commands the stage and has the audience as tightly wrapped around his every word as are the makeshift sails he rigs with well-paced pulleys ~ or as the albatross that is hung around his neck as punishment for his action.
Evett creates an Everyman whose sensibilities and struggles are as 21st Century as they are 18th Century. He delivers a most riveting and gripping performance, advantaged by a rich and elegantly constructed script and abetted by Rick Lombardo's direction, Cristina Todesco's set, Frances McSherry's tattered costumes, and some remarkable special effects.
ALBATROSS is a compelling and unique theatrical experience, deserving of immediate attention as its run at Herberger Theater Center's Stage West lasts only through March 26th.
Photo credit to Andrew Brilliant