Kedar K. Adour

Performing Arts Reviews

Rime of the Ancient Mariner dramatization by Word For word at Z space

(l-r) Charles Shaw Robinson as the Ancient Mariner and Lucas Brandt as the young Mariner (photo by Hilary Goidell)

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner; Lyric poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Directed by Jim Cave and Delia MacDougall, Word for Word, at Z Space Main Room Upstairs, 450 Florida Street, San Francisco, CA. 866-811-4111 or www.zspace.org. September 20- October 12, 2019.

Rime of the Ancient Mariner dramatization by Word For word at Z space Rating: ★★★★☆

In this 26th year of their existence Word for Word set sail with Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s  1798 epic poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner with mixed results. They pride themselves creating theatrical productions from written text nary omitting a word and often splitting a spoken phrase between two or three actors without losing the context of line. It would seem that a lyric poem with set verses would be a perfect vehicle for dramatization.  Yet their latest production that is compressed into a tight 60 minutes has moments of drama but does not fully grasp the audience. Part of dramatic ambivalence is due to an amplified sound system that echoes in the cavernous Z Space performing area with words losing distinction. Thus, if you are not familiar with the poem be advised to read it before becoming an audience member.

Many will recognize individual lines and symbolism that persist today: “He has an albatross around his neck”;  “.. He who loveth best all things great or small; “..water, water everywhere / nary a drop to drink”; “.. a wiser and sadder man” etc. It can be considered a parable with a moralistic bent and crimes against nature will be punished. The Mariner’s crime is that he has killed an albatross and he is condemned to roam the earth retelling his story of woe to whoever will listen.

It all begins when the grizzled mariner (Charles Shaw Robinson) accosts a reluctant wedding guest and the tale is told.  The mariner and crew had set sail south on a hopeful journey only to run into a storm that blew them into an icy sea.  When an albatross flies in and they befriend the bird a friendly wind blows them to safety into the Antarctic. They attribute the good luck to the albatross but for no reason the Mariner shoots the bird and all sorts of misfortune befall them.  The crew place the blame on the Mariner and hang the carcass of the bird around his neck symbolic of the burden that will eventually befall the ship in general and he personally.

The ship becomes involved in mist and is blown into equatorial seas and without water the crewmen die and lie upon the deck when a Ghost Ship arrives and that crew gambles for their souls as they become ghosts.  Eventually the rotted hull of the ship arrives back at its home port with only the old mariner alive and he must accept his fate to continually retell his story hopeful that it will create men who will accept nature.

The creative crew has created a shell for the hull of the ship (Oliver DiCicco and Colm McNally) with ropes that drop from the ceiling creating the rigging effectively used for support by crew members as the platform rocks on stormy seas.  The physical structure is bathe in evocative green lighting (Ray Oppenheimer) as the men slowly die and become ghosts. These lights become scorching shades of red and yellow as the ship enters the unforgiving tropics and you can mentally feel the burning decks. Matt Stines creates evocative sound design that makes the lighting even more effective.

The entire acting area is surrounded by a ramp the runs to the ceiling of the rear wall where the other actors (Wedding guests, The Sun, The Moon and Polar Spirit) are ensconced and descend to the forward acting area for effective delivery of specific lines.

The white bearded Charles Shaw Robinson as the ancient mariner shares accolades with Lucas Brandt as the young mariner and the wedding guest.  The direction by Delia MacDougail and Jim Cave is effectively non-intrusive allowing the words to take center stage.

CAST (Alphabetical) Nathaniel Andalis, Lucas Brandt, Robert Ernst, Darryl V. Jones, Leontyne Mbele-Mbong, Earl Paus, Charles Shaw Robinson, Patricia Silver and Randall Wong.

DESIGN TEAM: Scenic Design by Oliver DiCicco and Colm McNally,  Ray Oppenheimer (Lighting Design), Teddy Hulsker (Projection Design), Hana Kim (Video Content), Nol  Simonse (Choreographer), Matt Stine (Sound Design) and Nikki Anderson-Joy (Costume Design)

Kedar K. Adour MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldim2.com.