In search of the great white whale. Oh, wait wrong play.
Written by Adele Edling Shank. Starring Edmond Genest and Monique Fowler, music composed by Paul Dresher. Directed by Les Waters. Through Mar. 25, Tickets are $45-61; call 510-647-2949 or visit www.berkeleyrep.org.
Berkeley Repertory Theatre, 2025 Addison St. (at Shattuck) Berkeley
The flotsam and jetsam of flamboyant ideas that make up To the Lighthouse only really comes together in one scene, but it's a memorable one. Seated around a long, meticulously set dinner table like Jesus and his disciples in Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper (foreshadowing, perhaps, the biblical overtones of the closing sentiment of the play and the novel, "It is done; it is finished"), the characters articulate their internal thoughts out loud, while miming their external conversations with each other. This conceit simply and sublimely dramatizes Woolf's stream-of-consciousness technique, while allowing the characters and their conflicts space to dance like the flickering candle flames endlessly reflected in the mirrors.
"At this stage of his career, it is absurd to expect Orson Welles to attempt anything less than the impossible," wrote Tynan of Welles' whale of a belly flop. "Mere possible things, like Proust or War and Peace, would confine him. He must choose Moby Dick, a book whose setting is the open sea, whose hero is more mountain than man and more symbol than either, and whose villain is the supremely unstageable whale." To the Lighthouse might not reach its destination, but in a world where playing safe is the norm for most commercial and large-scale, nonprofit theater companies, there's something exhilarating and admirable about Berkeley Rep's tumultuous effort. The company deserves a maritime salute just for pushing the boat out.