Nautical theater has fitting setting Caravan Stage Company performs aboard ship

October 16, 1997|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Is there a better way to usher in a boat show weekend than with a real live boat show?

You'll have the opportunity to find out this weekend courtesy of the Caravan Stage Company, a group of Canadian actors that has launched its first international theatrical tour aboard its tall ship the Amara Zee, which is docked for its second weekend on Spa Creek in Annapolis, just behind the historic Charles Carroll House.

In a remarkable setting right on the 83-foot Amara Zee's main deck, the actors will perform two contrasting pieces on this most nautical of weekends.

At 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Caravan Stage will present "The River Show," a one-hour comic operetta exploring the history of the St. Lawrence River. This is a high-spirited, imaginative production in which dance, Canadian folk music, mime and comedy abound. But like all this ensemble's presentations, it also exists to raise our level of reverence for North America's bountiful water resources.

At 7: 30 p.m. today and Saturday, the actors will perform "Trapped: A Whale of a Tale," a serious piece based on Farley Mowat's story, "A Whale for the Killing."

I was in the lamentably small audience that saw "Trapped" last Thursday and found it a gritty and gripping piece of theater eminently worth your time and attention.

The story line is simple. A whale becomes trapped in a small Newfoundland inlet and, alas, quickly becomes an outlet for the anger of dispossessed Newfoundlanders desperate to reassert a measure of authority over their lives. When naturalist-author Mowat steps in to protect the poor creature, the anger level surges even as the Canadian government descends into hilarious anarchy as it attempts to help.

Then there is Vic, the departed local boy back to solve the mystery of his father's death. Tormented by an unrelenting Mistress of the Sea, he is forced to confront the infidelities of his life in an achingly intense manner.

"Trapped" is very much an ensemble affair as fishermen, seal trappers, dockworkers, musicians and even mimed fish meld together purposefully on Amara Zee's main deck.

There were some crossed-up lines and rhythms last Thursday, but nothing much to get in the way of the drama or the remarkable setting. The effects are something to behold. It's not every day you see a full-size whale materialize in seconds out of the deck of a ship. It's worth the price of a ticket ($12 for adults; $8 for students) just to see how it's done.

In this story, the metaphor of Jonah is never far off, and we remind ourselves that salvation is a tough business, whether the object of grace is a gigantic ocean-dwelling mammal or a smaller, two-legged one.

This might be rather a sobering reminder for the U.S. Powerboat Show this weekend, but it was a lesson taught as well as the lights of this beautiful city reflect off Spa Creek on a clear autumn night.

Ticket information: Charles Carroll House, 410-269-1737.

Pub Date: 10/16/97

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