Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Old Man And The Sea"

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note: entire contents copyright 2005 by Larry Stark

"The Old Man And The Sea"

Based on the book by Ernest Hemingway
Adapted by Weylin Symes
Directed by Gred Smucker

Scenic Design by Richard Chambers
Lighting Design Annmarie Duggan
Costume Design by Allison Szklarz
Sound Design by David Reiffel
Dramaturgy by Pangea Farm
Assistant Stage Manager Caitlin Lowans
Production Manager Dave Brown
Production Stage Manager Melissa Daroff

Santiago.........Richard McElvain
Manolin...........Nicholas Carter

Richard Chambers' set for "The Old Man And The Sea" is a wide bamboo-mat wall, soaring up from the level of the stage up and back, up and back until it fills the entire proscenium-arch with its wide, poor-Cuban brown shape, its subtle curvature, its wide flatness. Puncturing this sheet a fisherman's shack juts through, its flat rough roof also a ragged-edged bamboo mat, its sides defining a small playing-space with one chair and a long box that could be a chest and does become a bed. At the back of this space is a curtained doorway, and Annmarie Duggan's lights sometimes glow through the cracks between the bamboo strips, high up, like the bright glow of dawn, and at times that rear entry-curtain glows an intense yellow. In this space are two fishermen --- one a boy of fourteen who demands "Tell me the story: what happened?" and the other is a strange old man who spent three days with a line in his hands being pulled far out to sea by the biggest marlin he had ever seen --- an old fisherman who tells, and often acts out, the story of his victory, and his defeat.

Sometimes it's the boy who pulls the other end of the line; sometimes he loops it around a cleat in the up-center of the stage, and sometimes the excited, wearying old man steps off the platform onto the base of that bamboo wall on one side or another, and sometimes he lies, dreaming or dozing or simply cramped, the line looped across his twisted shoulders, hanging on for dear life. After eighty-four days without a fish he may have gone out too far, but he will kill this fish, or die in the attempt.

What else do you need to know? That Richard McElvain is the best actor in Boston --- even when in Stoneham? That he often speaks faster than you'd think anyone can and yet everything he says is clear, and heartbreakingly meaningful? That the boy Manolin (who is really Nicholas Carter and indeed only fourteen) would be in the skiff with Santiago, as he had been before, but for his parents who would not let him stay with one who must be "salao", which is the worst form of unlucky? You want to know about the sharks, that robbed this old man, not of his great victory, but of his success? Do you want to hear what a big, a bigger than the skiff itself fish sounds like as it swims, as it jumps, as it dies? Do you wish to learn what true courage means, its rewards, its losses, and the clever tricks and determination it takes to fish for three grueling days with a cramping hand and swimming eyes and old, familiar pain?

A review will tell you nothing of this. For that you cannot sit home and read. You must leave your city. Go. You must, like Santiago, go far out.
You must go as far as the Stoneham Theatre --- before it is too late.


"The Old Man And The Sea" (17 March - 3 April)
395 Main Street, STONEHAM MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide