TheaterMania: "Rinde Eckert's richly conceived work...is a stunning piece of music-theater." (Excerpt) by Dan Bacalzo

The Culture Project had one of its earliest successes with Rinde Eckert's richly conceived 2000 work, And God Created Great Whales. Now, to celebrate its return to its former home at 45 Bleecker, the company has remounted the OBIE Award-winning two-hander, which remains a stunning piece of music-theater.

The show, directed by David Schweizer, centers on Nathan (played by Eckert), a composer suffering from a degenerative illness that is causing him to lose his memory. The unfortunate condition has afflicted him during the creation of what he plans as his grand opus, an opera adaptation of Herman Melville's novel, Moby-Dick.

Nathan has left himself tape-recorded instructions and visual aids to help jar his memory from day to day so that he can continue his work. He also receives assistance from Olivia (Nora Cole), his muse. In his instructions to himself, he readily acknowledges that she is a product of his imagination, but also says that he should listen to "anything she has to say about music, or art, or the dark night of the soul, or whatever."

There is a certain amount of tongue-in-cheek mocking of operatic conventions within Eckert's piece, as Nathan and Olivia take on the roles of Ishmael, Queequeg, Starbuck, Ahab, and others from Melville's novel. It also soon becomes clear that Nathan's Moby-Dick score draws from an eclectic array of musical influences that include not only a more traditional opera sound, but also sea shanties, gospel, liturgical music, and more....

Published February 12, 2012

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