note: entire contents copyright 2016 by Sheila Barth
Award-winning actor-author Benjamin Evett reprises his multi-award winning, one-man portrayal in “Albatross,” the story of a tormented sailor, haunted by ghosts, and doomed to tell his story to any who will listen. And, aye, what a tale it is!
Whether people have read “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” almost everyone is aware of Coleridge’s lines, “Water, water everywhere, And all the boards did shrink; Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink.” Evett and Spangler created a story typical of the sky and sea’s fickle nature, and their profound effect on sailors swept up in swirling swells. adrift without food or water. The writing duo explores the sailors’ burning thirst and destruction to the maximum.
Their adaptation and dramatic clout also span the ages, laced with contemporary references. Under Rick Lombardo’s fiery direction, Evett also offends the senses and wearies the viewer with his energetic, non-stop, 95-minute, intense delivery.
Many lines are taken from Coleridge’s masterpiece, which was originally penned in seven parts, in ballad stanza form. But Evett expands on the complex, psychological tale, adding a more powerful sense of mysticism, timelessness, and mental torment that must be expunged through prayer and repentance.
He and Spangler also created a tough fighting, hard-drinking mariner, who “swears like a sailor,” has a drunk for a wife, and deathly ill 5-year-old son. While becoming slobbered in a pub, the mariner is illegally conscripted and shanghaied, to serve aboard a well-known blackguard’s privateering mission to South America.
Evett masterfully controls theatergoers’ attention, employing eye contact, direct contact, whether he’s asking for an I-phone, standing nearby, nudging folks, or incorporating other ploys in the intimate theater. Award-winning set designer Cristina Todesco has created a stark pier or wharf-type setting, with several ladders, ropes, pulleys, sandbags, and other timeless, seagoing accoutrement.
Evett climbs ladders, sets up sails and backdrops with ropes, pulleys, large pieces of fabric, and sandbags, which convert to backdrops boasting Garrett Herzig’s spectacular projection designs and his eerie lighting.
Throughout the 95 minutes, Evett blusters, blunders, swaggers, battles, cringes, and relates sickening tales of terror and torture that are so graphic, several theatergoers would have preferred a toned down version.
Evett is relentless. His artistic interpretation is so commanding, he is heading to Edinburgh, Scotland’s Fringe Festival to present the play, then on to New York City’s Off-Broadway 59E59 Theaters, January 2017. Coleridge ends his tale of woe with “He went like one that hath been stunned, And is of sense forlorn: A sadder and a wiser man, He rose the morrow morn.”
Obviously, Evett and Co. took heed. Besides winning awards, they will continue to captivate audiences here and across the pond.