by Rebecca Nimerfroh
Melodic throws of chorus lead the mind to conjure up visions of overhead, foamy emerald waves, and of an old wooden whaling ship as it slams down upon the sea. One almost wants to strengthen their footing for the next big wave, anticipate the cry of a seagull overhead, and touch their face half expecting the salty sheen of sea air, but this is just a production of the musical hit SeaWife, running now until September 1 at The White Heron Theatre, and you are just an audience member along for the ride, an adventure you won’t soon forget.
SeaWife is a journey of the senses, carried by a series of songs that are impressively performed by all seven cast members, contributing members of the band The Lobbyists, who never, not even for a single moment, seem to break from character. In fact, each performer, often tasked with playing multiple roles, has his own starring moment in this beautiful and powerful tale of love, death, and the hard whaling days of the past.
The play opens with the relatable and innocent Percy, an optimistic whaler who falls head over heels for Therese, a bar wench in a coastal town. Percy eventually warms her hardened heart, and it is truly beautiful to watch as he introduces this love to the other woman in his life – the sea, which will ultimately take him away for years at a time. Their romance is doomed, however, when tragedy hits, and from this moment on, told dramatically with lighting effects and song, Therese thus becomes the “SeaWife,” a sort of dark angel that haunts not only Percy but also his other shipmates at sea.
In the second half of the production, the other characters of the ensemble come to life, with Alex Grubbs who plays Philip, Gibbs, and Bertram, and the impressive Will Turner who plays Pegg. Directed by Liz Carlson, this play is powerfully carried by each talented cast member, particularly Tommy Crawford (who plays Young Percy) and Eloise Eonnet (who plays Therese). Tony Vo as Caldi is a vital asset as well to this production, his enthusiastic performance offering emotional respite from the heavier storyline. Clearly, the most impressive thing about this production is not necessarily the story itself, although that is undeniably sincere and compelling. It is the actors, each musical and convincing, that leaves the audience wanting more and more.
The stage direction of these characters is a true feast for the eyes, as they mime the harpoon of a whale, and like a beautiful war between good and evil, it is impossible not only to feel for the animal being slaughtered but also for the whaler too, forced to kill for his own livelihood. The life of a whaler was not an easy one; it was cruel yet it was beautiful, much like the ocean itself.
SeaWife is performed Wednesday-Friday through September 1; curtain time is 7:30 pm. To purchase tickets visit whiteherontheatre.org or call the box office at 508-825-5268.