By Eric J. Grimm
Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, gets an expansion in Matthew Spangler and Benjamin Evett’s Albatross, a one-man show performed by Evett that currently runs at 59e59 Theaters. Coleridge’s macabre tale of a mariner who shoots an albatross with a bow and arrow only to inflict misery upon himself and his crew, is one of the greatest of all works of horror, mostly unmatched in the dread that permeates its 614 lines. The new one man show, directed by Rick Lombardo, fleshes out the story of the mariner, a seemingly ageless soul who swears and crack jokes aimed at a contemporary audience. It is there that the venture becomes muddled, beginning as something of a parody and ending as a fairly faithful adaptation of its source material.
Evett charges into the role, snarling, cursing, and cackling throughout and while the show is overlong at 85 uninterrupted minutes, he is fully equipped to hold us at attention throughout. He is often undermined by distracting projections, which aim to provide atmosphere but are ultimately cheap looking computer graphics on a loop. His stamina and consistency as a performer is further tested by the script’s inability to decide what it wants to do with the mariner’s story. There are flat references to modern technology in a framing device that disappears roughly halfway through the show and a very detailed history of the mariner that attempts to both humanize and demonize him, though the revelations are buried in info heavy soliloquizing and they don’t enrich the material. Evett and Spangler have sacrificed the mystery of Coleridge’s narrator and interpreted him as someone who shouts just about every relevant detail. Whether intended or not, it doesn’t come close to capturing the terror of reading Coleridge’s poem silently.
Albatross is playing at 59E59 Theaters (59 E. 59th St.) through February 12, 2017. For tickets, visit http://59e59.org.
Photos: Carole Goldfarb