Hemingway, Verne, Melville, and Homer are all highly canonized classic authors with one thing common: they’ve all written books with nautical themes that are assigned to high school and college students all across the country. Trouble is, when any of their great works (The Old Man and The Sea, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Moby Dick, and Odyssey, respectively) are mentioned, it is usually followed by a blank stare, a vague recollection, and/or a quiet, nearly shameful murmuring that the book was studied , but deemed “boring” by the reader.
Thanks to Naked Angels Theater Company and director Liz Carlson, the symbolic ocean tale has been vividly re-imagined and made exceptionally cool in Seawife, a new immersive musical production currently housed at the South Street Seaport Museum.
The Museum, which itself has been revitalized after weathering Hurricane Sandy and economic travails, offers appropriate rustic ambiance to the story of Percy (first portrayed by Tommy Crawford and later by Will Turner), a young boy destined to follow in his father’s footsteps of being a harpooner. Told through the lens of his sidekick, Caldi (Tony Vo), he weaves a riveting tale of swashbuckling as only he can since, “I am bound to it, as I am the only one who knows it.” The show also brilliantly offers a quiet ecological warning about the sea and those who care for it. The lesson invokes thought, but avoids the urge to proselytize.
A wonderfully tuneful folk-rock score accompanies the story including mandolins, banjos, and fiddles. The Lobbyists, a talented group of musicians are featured as both the band and a majority of the cast. Clocking in at over 2 1/2 hours the show occasionally lags, but once this expansively talented troupe begins their next song, all is forgiven. By collaborating with playwright Seth Moore and an imaginative creative team, they have taken what has become a staid genre and given it a hip, fresh, makeover that is as entertaining as the ocean is vast.
SeaWife plays Tuesday through Sunday at 7:00 PM through July 19th, 2015 at the South Street Seaport Museum (213 Water Street, Manhattan) Tickets are $40 and can be purchased at BrownPaperTickets.com For more information about the show and The Lobbyists, visit seawife.org