If you’ve read Herman Melville’s MOBY DICK, you know that the story of Captain Ahab and his obsession to kill the great white whale was written as a novel. To hear that it is performed at the theater brings immediate questions: How is the whale presented? How about the ship? And the ocean? Your chance to find out is now, since Theatricum Botanicum is currently performing the play that was adapted by the famous actor and director Orson Welles back in 1946 and that was entitled MOBY DICK – REHEARSED.

Directed by Ellen Geer, MOBY DICK – REHEARSED at Theatricum starts with a bare stage. A group of actors rehearsing Shakespeare’s KING LEAR decide to create a play based on the MOBY DICK story. In other words, what you see is a play within a play. As they deepen into the tale, they add yardarms, sails, masts, and what looks like the deck of a ship to the stage. It is then your job to imagine the vast ocean and, later on, the great white whale.

Dane Oliver, performing as the wondering sailor Ishmael, delivers the book’s most famous first line: “Call me Ishmael,” after which you’re taken into the world of Captain Ahab (played by Gerald C. Rivers) and his obsession, or hubris, that he can kill the ferocious white whale that had once bitten off his leg. If you have read Melville’s MOBY DICK you won’t be disappointed, as this play is written largely in verse, with text that is pulled directly from the original novel.

Gerald C. Rivers as Captain Ahab in MOBY DICK – REHEARSED / Photo by Ian Flanders


It is not often that one’s imagination becomes an additional and necessary character during a performance, but that is the case in MOBY DICK – REHEARSED. For that reason, this play will be enjoyed best by those who have read the original novel. It is great fun and the actors do a superb job helping you believe that there’s a white whale lurking right behind you. It’s a satisfying piece of theater that makes you appreciate having read the novel back in high school.

MOBY DICK – REHEARSED will be in repertory through Sept. 29. You can catch it tomorrow, Sunday, July 14, at 4 pm, and you can also consider the following special dates:

Sunday, Aug. 4, at 3 pm – the play is preceded by a discussion with the actors;

Friday, Aug. 9, at 8 pm – a ‘Pay what you will’ performance

Regular admission starts at $26. Tickets are available online here or by calling (310) 455 – 3723.

The Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum is located at 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd, in Topanga CA 90290. This is a perfect place to cool off during the hot summer days. In fact, bring a sweater; it may even get chilly during the evening performances. No fancy clothing is needed. You are also welcomed to bring a picnic to enjoy before the performance.