Several nice plays opened here last weekend. What's more, there was a lot of chatter among theater types about the bazillion or so dollars donated to one of our local playhouses. But if culturally minded people remember anything about Valentine's weekend, 2014, it will be this: That was the weekend Ron May and Damon Dering brought us The Whale.
Phoenix is home to other theater masterminds. Yet when David Ira Goldstein brings us a stunning Long Day's Journey Into Night, or Michael Barnard offers an agreeable Streetcar Named Desire, they do it with decades of experience and giant boxes of money behind them. May and Dering are only lately outgrowing their wunderkind status, and with each of their productions (and not all have been winners), they're putting their hearts and increasingly tiny budgets on the line with every performance. With The Whale, they have combined forces — May as director at his own Stray Cat Theatre; Dering in the lead of this marvelously complicated play — and turned out the must-see production of the season.
Samuel D. Hunter's story about a morbidly obese man seeking redemption at the end of his life has had other, more high-profile productions in the recent past — at Chicago's Victory Gardens, for example, and New York's Playwright Horizons, certainly. But not having seen them, I didn't find myself holding back tears at those. Stray Cat's production did me in.
THIS IS AN ABRIDGED VERSION OF THE ORIGINAL REVIEW - READ IT IN ITS ENTIRETY BELOW
The Whale at Stray Cat Theatre Is the Must-See Production of the Season