“Albatross” – Arizona Theatre Company

Theater Review – March 20, 2017


Arizona Theatre Company, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ

A fascinating and visually exciting 90-minute play, “Albatross,” is about an 18th-century English sailor, The Mariner, cursed by a never-ending life, who is shoved into contemporary times.  The show is vibrantly alive because of Benjamin Evett’s spellbinding solo performance in the gripping Arizona Theatre Company staging that is aided brilliantly by Rick Lombardo’s inflammatory staging of Cambridge’s The Poet’s Theatre’s original production.  The unusual presentation sparks the play’s stimulating allure because of the performance and a different visual look crafted by three gifted set, costume, and lighting designers.

The character’s weird transformation is inspired by Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” and the transition to present day allows audiences to draw appropriate parallels to our bizarre current times.  The poem tells of a sailor’s experiences after a lengthy sea tour and explores consequences of the trip including guilt and loneliness as well as the close linkage between humans and other living beings.

The albatross miraculously appears when the ship is lost and guides it to safety.  Even though the bird attracts great reverence by the ship’s crew, it is killed to relieve starving.  The grim story has many disgusting references and “Albatross” will not sit well with weak willed theatergoers who can’t tolerate graphic excesses.

Evett’s performance is remarkable.  Not only is it a physically exhausting expose but the character’s emotions range the wide gambit from mild to harsh and ultimately defiant.  By the end of the performance, the actor is soaked with sweat and took only one strongly received bow because he must be completely depleted.

“Albatross” is being staged in the now often vacant Stage West at the Herberger Theater Center where not too many seasons ago such now closed theater troupes as Arizona Jewish Theatre and Actors Theatre once performed.  The intimate space is perfect for small plays as the audience literally sits in the production’s lap but the facility rental costs make it out-of-reach for many theater companies.  At least Arizona Theatre Company is using the now available space for its smaller shows.

“Albatross” continues through Sunday, March 26.  To order tickets, call the Herberger Theater Center box office at 602-252-8497 or order tickets online at www.arizonatheatre.org.

Grade: A