Covenant College Theatre Department’s production of Moreau by Sean Gaffney opened last weekend, inviting audiences onto an island where scientist Dr. Moreau is conducting questionable experiments.
The stage is set with distressed wood, rough burlap material, and green overtones to convey the jungle-like nature of the island. The islanders are dressed in make-shift tunics and head coverings, while those on the island who come from civilization are dressed in the clothing of English gentlemen.
Based on H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau and directed by Professor Camille Hallstrom, the play tells the story of young biologist Edward Prendick (Matthew Mindeman), who finds himself on an island inhabited by very strange natives. The islanders move animalistically across the stage, jumping from platforms and looking like they don’t quite know how they are supposed to walk. They are human, but something is just not quite right.
As the story unfolds, Prendick puts two and two together to discover, to his horror, that Dr. Moreau (William Darby) has been experimenting on animals in an attempt to create a new humanity. With the help of his alcohol-dependent assistant Dr. Montgomery (Joseph Klingman), Moreau has been trying to blur the line between man and beast. To a large part, he succeeds. The second act reveals Moreau’s greatest triumph, Kate (Sammie Brown), whom he has transformed from a puma into a beautiful, intelligent young woman.
The cast is, quite simply, brilliant. Mindeman’s Prendick is torn between his love of science and knowledge, and his strong moral conscience that screams at the atrocity of Moreau’s experiments.
Joseph Klingman’s Montgomery is a man who admires Moreau’s unquestionable brilliance, but uses drink to dull the ethical problems Moreau’s quest for glory brings.
Darby’s Moreau wants glory–and nothing but glory–and to triumph in the sight of all the London scientists who have shunned him. He conceives himself a god, and only concedes that the real God “had better lab material.”
Sammie Brown portrays Kate with the grace of both a lady and a cat, whose wheels are turning all the while as she realizes the horror her creator has put her through.
The only time the cast’s portrayal lapsed was in some minor fight scenes amongst secondary characters, but otherwise the show is enthralling from beginning to end.
Moreau raises a multitude of questions pertinent to our culture. What is it that makes a man? How far can we take our quest for knowledge before we cross a line, especially as the scientific field grows? What would the world be like if the one who created us wasn’t omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent? Drawing analogies from the Tower of Babel and the fall of Lucifer, it calls us to consider what our place is as creations that have also been given the ability to create.
Moreau will be showing Feb. 26 at 8:00 p.m. and Feb. 27 at 2:30 p.m., and all who want to think about the line between beast, man, and God, or who just want to be sincerely entertained, should attend.