Tuesday, April 14, 2015


Upstream closes its tenth season with an absorbing one-act dramatization of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's 18th century lyrical ballad, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." If you've never read or heard of "The Rime", you're most likely familiar with some of the metaphors (having an albatross around your neck) and phrases from it ("Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink") that have left their marks on literature's landscape.

The poem concerns a Mariner who foolishly shoots an albatross that he's forced to wear around his neck as a reminder of his violent actions. His disregard for life seals his fate and plots a course of unearthly encounters with spectral ships and the deaths of each of his crewmen, leaving the Mariner alone in reflection, and eventual transformation. Doomed to relate his story of culpability in an endless pursuit of redemption, he stops a guest on his way to a wedding party when the story begins.

Jerry Vogel (Mariner).
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The vivid imagery of this haunting sea voyage is orchestrated sublimely by Patrick Siler, who adapted and directed the piece, with Jerry Vogel at the helm as the nameless title character. Vogel's commanding presence is palpable -- as heavy in grief, anxiety and remorse as he is buoyant in joy and realization. Patrick Blindauer and Shanara Gabrielle deftly stand in for additional characters in the story, from the wedding guests and the Mariner's shipmates, to the angels and water snakes the Mariner meets during his journey along murky waters. All three cast members, with Gabrielle proving most skillful, fluidly execute Cecil Slaughter's choreography that punctuates the story with movement.

Patrick Blindauer (ensemble), Shanara Gabrielle (ensemble)
and Jerry Vogel (Mariner).
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Siler's staging also benefits from the musical accompaniment provided by the band, Sleepy Kitty. Its members, Paige Brubeck and Evan Sult, add a tremendous amount of texture to the story. Their original songs and themes, inspired by Coleridge's text, provide a seductive undercurrent of music, (particularly well executed by Blindauer) and atmospheric sound design. They also participate further, with Sult playing Death (the fate of the crewmen) and Brubeck playing Life-in-Death (the Mariner's fate) -- all to great effect. It's hard to imagine the story without their contributions. Kyra Bishop's sparse, evocative scenic design includes a small, raked triangular platform for the ship's bow, with sails, a hanging ladder, and a cloth backdrop where images of Gustav Doré's engravings of the ballad are projected. Joseph W. Clapper's lights add a sense of the surreal, with Lou Bird's costumes hitting the mark perfectly for the Mariner, and are very aptly suited and varied for the ensemble, with innovative props by Julia Graham, including a laced veil symbolizing the albatross.

Patrick Blindauer (ensemble), Shanara Gabrielle (ensemble)
and Jerry Vogel (Mariner).
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The elements of Siler's adaptation integrate handsomely to illustrate a chilling story that will stay with you long after you leave the theatre. Don't let it pass you by. It runs at the Kranzberg until the 19th.


Written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Adapted for the stage and directed by Patrick Siler
Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand Blvd.
through April 19 | tickets: $20 - $30
Performances Thursdays to Saturdays at 8pm, April 12 at 2pm & 7pm, April 19 at 3pm

Evan Sult and Paige Brubeck.
Photo credit:
Jerry Vogel* (Mariner), Patrick Blindauer (ensemble), Shanara Gabrielle* (ensemble).
* Member Actors' Equity Association

Scenic design by Kyra Bishop; costume design by Lou Bird; lighting design by Joseph W. Clapper; prop design by Julia Graham; choreography consultant, Cecil Slaughter; stage manager, Jim Anthony; music composed and performed by Sleepy Kitty.

Patrick Blindauer (ensemble), Jerry Vogel (Mariner)
and Shanara Gabrielle (ensemble).
Photo credit:
Sleepy Kitty:
Paige Brubeck and Evan Sult.

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