Review: The Whale

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

Last week's Philadelphia premiere of Samuel D. Hunter's play The Whale at Theater Exile was packed with an eager crowd anticipating the show the Village Voice referred to as "Vibrant and provocative".

And as the house lights faded to black while the curtain rose, the audience was about to discover exactly how apropos those two words are in regards to The Whale.

We're immediately introduced the Charlie (Scott Greer), a morbidly obese recluse who spends the first moments of the play berating his online students about their lack of knowledge for the classic Herman Melville novel Moby Dick. Ironically the novel is referenced quite a few times throughout The Whale and it is no small coincidence that Charlie can be considered the whale of this story for many reasons.

Minutes after Charlie's introduction we're treated to a scene where, during a moment of self-pleasure, Charlie experiences severe heart palpitations at the exact same moment he's visited by the fresh faced traveling Mormon Elder Thomas (Trevor William Fayle).

After Elder Thomas assists Charlie with his medical trauma the two of them begin to talk and from that moment forward the audience is launched into Charlie's world. As the play unfolds Charlie's past is exposed through a succession of interactions with the supporting cast, revealing a story that is filled with secrets, shame and, at times, dire hopelessness. Even his apartment carries the burden of his obesity and is littered with reminders of both his academic prowess and disregard for his own physical appearance. The tiny couch Charlie spends a large portion of the play sitting on serves as a reminder of his life not being big enough to carry the weight of the unresolved issues he still holds onto from his past.

The Whale is a roller coaster ride of emotion from the time it begins up until the abrupt ending that will either leave the audience speechless or gasping in unison.

Hunter's writing and dialogue perfectly portray the interpersonal relationships between people whose lives are intertwined. Charlie's close friend and confidant Liz (Kate Czajkowski) adds both comic relief and motherly tenderness with her heartfelt concern of Charlie's well being. And conversely, Ellie (Campbell O' Hare) brings a sardonic Millennial vibe that shocks the audience into giving them all of her attention every time she opens her mouth. But the shining gem in The Whale is the story itself, which touches on family, religion and how the choices we make in life affect everyone around us as well as ourselves.

The Whale is equal parts dramatic, comedic, thought provoking and charming with many plot twists and huge A-Ha! moments delivered by an amazing cast.

It is certainly not to be missed.

Check out The Whale at Theater Exile Sudio X (13th and Reed Street in South Philly) up until March 1st.

Read Related Posts...