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Water work: G’Point theater troupe staging ‘Moby-Dick’ in bookstore

Water work: G’Point theater troupe staging ‘Moby-Dick’ in bookstore
Bagging a whale: “Or, the Whale” director Kate Russell with a “Moby-Dick” tote bag.
Photo by Jason Speakman

It is a whale of a tale.

A new Greenpoint theater troupe is adapting Herman Melville’s cetological classic “Moby-Dick” for the stage, and it will give a free sneak-peek performance at neighborhood bookstore Word on April 22. Even if you want to beach yourself at the thought of struggling through the 600-page paperback again, the theatrical version could still float your boat, said the captain of the thespian crew, as the novel is really a play in disguise.

“Herman Melville, whether he was really conscious of it or not, really wrote a play,” said Threadbare Theatre Workshop director and Greenpointer Kate Russell. “There are soliloquies and asides and really cool character work.”

Ten actors will perform a blubber-free, hour-long version of the sprawling story, dubbed “Or, the Whale,” which follows the sailor Ishmael on his journey at sea. Ishmael and another seamen, Queequeg, form an unlikely friendship and the duo decides to embark on a whaling voyage together. They meet Ahab, a one-legged captain, who promises to reward whoever find the whale who took his leg — Moby-Dick.

The performance is filled with scenes so tense you could cut them with a harpoon, offering insight into Ishmael’s voyages — both maritime and mental, said Russell.

“It is a really intimate journey through one man’s mind,” she said.

Russell said her approach to the seafaring story is different from other adaptations, which she said often strip the performances of the language that helps shape the scenes. The director said she welcomed Melville’s words, which she likened to Shakespeare.

“I got excited in embracing the language and not chipping it away — the language is so beautiful,” she said

The troupe plans to ultimately transform the staged reading into a play, complete with costumes and all the theatrical touches. Russell said Threadbare is launching a Kickstarter in May to raise money to sail the a show into a venue that is even more appropriate than a bookstore — the waterfront.

Threadbare Theatre Workshop performs “Or, the Whale” at Word Bookstore [126 Franklin St. between Milton and Noble streets in Greenpoint, (718) 383–0096, www.wordbookstores.com]. April 22 at 6:30 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Vanessa Ogle at vogle@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–4507. Follow her attwitter.com/oglevanessa.

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