The Whale by Obie award winner Samuel D. Hunter opens on March 14 at the Foulds Theatre inside the Lee County Alliance for the Arts. Big-hearted and fiercely funny, this Theatre Conspiracy production tells the story of a man’s last chance at redemption, and of finding beauty in the most unexpected places.
Small-town Idaho is the setting for the characters who inhabit the world created by playwright Samuel D. Hunter in The Whale. Through Hunter’s skillful writing, the people and the place draw you deep into the story, where issues are anything but small. For starters, Hunter’s protagonist, Charlie, weighs 600 pounds. In an interview with The New York Times, Hunter said, “Sure, the visual is intentionally initially shocking, in the same way that having an actor who is seven feet tall would be initially shocking. But, hopefully, by the end, Charlie becomes an unlikely vehicle for the audience’s empathy.”
Charlie teaches online writing courses from his Idaho apartment. His weight keeps him isolated from the physical world outside. Charlie reaches out to his daughter, Ellie, who he has not seen for 15 years and who is a teenager who’s pushing against the adults in her life. Elder Thomas, a young Mormon on his two-year mission suddenly shows up at his door. Then there’s Liz, a devoted friend and caregiver. Charlie deals with more than weight issues; issues from his past have brought him to a crisis in the present.
“For me the play is fundamentally a story of a father trying to reconnect with his daughter,” said Hunter.
Theatre Conspiracy’s production features Producing Artistic Direct Bill Taylor, Will Harbison, Jennifer Grant, Jennifer Koch and Annie Wagner. The show runs March 14 – 29. Individual tickets are $20 each. Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. with one Sunday matinee on March 23 at 2 p.m. Opening night is “pay what you will” and Thursdays are “buy one get one half off.” Tickets can be purchased by calling Theatre Conspiracy’s box office at 239-936-3239 or by visiting www.theatreconspiracy.org.
Theatre Conspiracy is a 501(c)(3) non-profit Florida corporation headed by Producing Artistic Director Bill Taylor. Its funding is derived from ticket sales, advertising sales and donations. During its 19 year history, it has been described as “innovative, exciting, daring,” and “a treasured member of the area’s theatrical community.”