Cursed for eternity
Classic tale of penance reworked for modern audiences
Since Vinnie Linares’ Oh Boy Productions presented last summer’s “Medea,” he and frequent collaborator Jennifer Rose have been motivated to produce additional thought-provoking plays on Maui.
“There is an audience for this type of material, but they have been denied because this is not the type of theater that makes money. I’m not interested in making money, I’m interested in breaking even,” said Linares. “It takes time to cultivate an audience that wants to see more than musicals.”
Two summers ago, Linares and Rose performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe where they witnessed “Albatross,” a play co-written by former Mauian, Matthew Spangler.
“It was one of the most moving plays I’ve ever seen,” said Rose, director of the Hawaii premiere, which opens Friday night in the McCoy Studio Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Kahului.
Written and performed as a rollicking sea yarn, a three-centuries-old sailor is cursed with immortality and thrust into the modern world. Based on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 1798 poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” “Albatross” recounts the experiences of a British sailor who stops a stranger on the street and begins to narrate his story. The stranger’s reaction turns from bewilderment to annoyance to fear to fascination as the story progresses.
The yarn begins with the Mariner’s ship dangerously driven south by a storm into Antarctic waters. An albatross appears and leads them out of an ice jam. Though the albatross is praised by his crewmates, the Mariner shoots the bird. As penance, he is forced to wander the earth, telling his story over and over, while teaching a lesson to all he meets.
“Albatross” is presented as a one-man play from the perspective of the Mariner, not the narrator of the sailor’s tale. Frank Kane plays the role originated by co-author Benjamin Evett.
“When I first read it, I said to myself, ‘My God, what an incredible story,’ “ shared Kane.
“At the Edinburgh Fringe, I kept nudging Jennifer throughout the show about bringing it to Maui, and I immediately thought of Frank,” said Linares. ” ‘Albatross’ is a vehicle that goes to places that theater rarely ventures to on island. It’s outside of the norm. It’s a true actor’s play, and there are many Maui actors that want to do and see this type of theater.”
“It’s not just about a great, thought-provoking story though, it’s how the story is told,” added Rose.
The play’s official website states, “The Mariner is everyman. He shows tenderness and cruelty, gets caught in disastrous situations that are partially of his own making, defiles nature and then gains appreciation for the natural world, and ultimately moves from random acts to accepting that there is a price associated with how we live our lives.”
“I read “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” in college and, even then, wanted to write a play based on the poem,” says Spangler on the site. “The Mariner is something of a refugee, forced to wander the earth for eternity telling and re-telling his story. He never fully inhabits one place, but is caught betwixt and between multiple spaces at once. When he is at sea, his heart is on land, at home with his son. He travels across borders and centuries, but never fully belongs to any one geographic location or era. He speaks multiple languages, but his own native tongue, as he puts it, comes from ‘somewhere between Bristol Channel and the Irish Sea,’ “ he says.
“The narrative is meticulously crafted between the actor and the writer. It’s as much guts as it is of the mind,” said Kane.
“It explores the depths and the heights of humanity,” added Rose. “This story is all of our stories. It gives great insight on the lost soul. The Mariner is the modern man. We see men like him in Wailuku, but we don’t talk to them. Maybe we give them some cash, but we disregard them.”
I asked Kane and Rose what are the benefits and drawbacks in presenting a one-person show.
“I don’t get any cues,” mused Kane.
“Supporting the actor as the only castmate is a bigger job, but it’s a joy to have that one-on-one connection as a director,” said Rose. “It’s a real mutual collaboration, and that concentration with one actor can allow them to go a lot deeper.”
Kane explained that he spent the first month simply reading the script over and over, before writing the entire play out by hand twice in effort to retain 90-minutes worth of constant dialogue before tackling the method in which he wanted to portray the Mariner.
“It’s a classic piece of English literature set in approximately 1720. Shakespeare’s words were not originally played as (Lawrence) Olivier’s words,” noted Kane. “This man probably had a Cornwall accent, somewhere between Plymouth and Penzance. His mother was Irish, so perhaps the Gaelic Isles as well. The words of the English language at that time were pronounced exactly as they are spelled, and I wanted to have that authentic sound for the ancient Mariner.”
Just as a sailor might speak, Kane, Rose and Linares all added that “Albatross” contains a considerable amount of salty language.
“The Mariner revisits Cole-ridge’s poem in a visceral way,” said Rose.
“It’s the Mariner’s tale, not Coleridge’s poem. He (Coleridge) stole it, and the Mariner is cursed to travel the world and tell the story because of his sin,” added Kane.
The award-winning and critically praised piece was called “Captivating” by the Boston Globe and “Riveting . . . an affecting theatrical piece that you will long remember” on www.broadwayworld.com.
“It’s a 31-page monologue,” Linares said of the play. “I’m a language person, and this script is written so beautifully. Each thought conveyed in its narrative leads you to the next. It’s classical, yet new, and different than anything you have ever seen on Maui — and I wanted to highlight this great work by a local-boy playwright.”
Also this week
ONO! returns to the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku with a staged reading of William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” adapted and directed by Lin McEwan. This month’s readers include McEwan, David Belew, Dale Button, Felicia Chernicki-Wulf, John Galvan, Ken Goring, Ricky Jones, Carlyn Leal, Orion Milligan, Daniel Vicars, Kalani Whitford and Jason Wulf.
* Performance is at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku. The free ONO! performances are every second Monday of the month. For more information, visit www.mauionstage.com.
MAPA Live presents “Into the Woods,” music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by James Lapine, directed by David C. Johnston, under the musical direction of Gary W. Leavitt.
In the shadows of trees, curses reverse and wishes come true. Something fanciful and peculiar happens — MAGIC! Edgy, whimsical and wickedly funny, “Into the Woods” is an adventure that goes beyond “happily ever after,” because “anything can happen in the woods.”
This cerebral fantasy musical intertwines the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault examining the consequences of the stories of “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “Rapunzel” and “Cinderella.”
The famous children’s fables are tied together by a childless baker and his wife, their quest to begin a family and a witch who has placed a curse on them. The lavish production stars Kathy Collins, Jerry Eiting, Logan Heller, Casey Hughes, Sara Jelley, Ricky Jones, Lina Krueger, Leighanna Locke, Kirsten Otterson, Francis Tau’a and many more.
* Performances are 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays, Aug. 24 through Sept. 2 in Castle Theater at the MACC. Tickets range from $22 to $66 (plus applicable fees). Parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children under 10. To purchase tickets, visit the box office, call 242-7469 or order online at www.mauiarts.org.