Poets and playwrights have glorified the exploits of seafaring men since Homer's Odyssey. The Wilma Theater presents a more personal, though no less inspiring, look at this tradition in its riveting North American premiere of Richard Bean's Under the Whaleback.
Bean's episodic play portrays the lives of North Sea fishermen across three generations, showing a patrilineage of hardscrabble boys who live long enough to sire sons before expiring in icy underwater tombs.
We meet local fishing icon Cassidy (Pearce Bunting) in 1965; bloodied and drunk before what he hopes is his last journey; he portends a certain fate with an uncertain timeline. Seven years later, Darrel (Brian Radcliffe) huddles in another hull off the stormy coast of Iceland, trying to avoid his father's fate through the use of a survival suit. Like the lore of Jason's Golden Fleece, this gear acts as both protection and talisman, and later becomes a millstone that (in the final act, set 30 years later) drags down a future in which he no longer fishes, and no longer finds purpose.