Also see Jeffrey's review of The Most Happy Fella
We meet his nurse Liz, daughter Ellie, ex-wife Mary and a young Mormon, Elder Thomas, who attempts to work his magic on Charlie. What occurs is a heartbreaking 90 minutes in which we watch someone who is, somewhat impatiently, waiting for his own demise. As portrayed by Gregg Weiner, we care about the man and what he is suffering through. Weiner, a superb actor whom I have never seen overact or cast an untrue moment onstage, is superb in the role. Burdened with a "fat suit" that makes him look like a moving head on one of those cutouts tourists stick their heads through, Weiner, through sheer technique, has us concentrating on his eyes and what he is saying, rather than how he looks. A bravura performance in a wonderfully written play.
Karl Skyler Urban, the Mormon whom Charlie not only tolerates, but seems to enjoy, brings the right touch of humor and gravitas to a role that could have been a cipher in lesser hands. Director Joseph Adler, it appears, has concentrated his efforts on the Charlie and Thomas characters, with the three actresses trusting their excellent instincts.
Technical aspects are up to Gablestage's usual level. In particular, the sound by Matt Corey is exemplary. Lyle Baskin's set of a middle-class English teacher on his way to hell is perfect.
Mr. Weiner, in his masterful performance, has set the bar quite high in The Whale. He and his cohort, the charming Karl Skyler Urban as Elder Thomas, make the evening well worth your attendance.
The Whale through August 17, 2014, at Gablestage, Coral Gables, Florida. Thursday - Saturday at 8pm. Sunday at 2pm and 7pm. For performance and ticket information call 305-445-1119 or visit gablestage.org.
-- Jeffrey Bruce