Covenant Theater Department’s upcoming production, Moreau—written by Sean Gaffney of Warner Bros. fame—pieces together the story of a castaway, a biologist, and a menagerie of experimental creations to examine the barriers between God, man, and animal. The play, a sci-fi thriller based on H.G. Well’s novel, The Island of Dr. Moreau, addresses the fears that arose with Darwinism and scientific innovation at the turn of the 20th century.
The play follows Edward Prendick, a London socialite and scientist, as he is rescued from a shipwreck and brought to a secluded island. He meets the exiles Dr. Moreau and Dr. Montgomery, along with a host of enigmatic natives. In the spirit of Victorian horror classics such as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Frankenstein, the plot thickens as Prendick gradually discovers what Moreau is creating—or rather, recreating—behind locked laboratory doors.
When The Island of Dr. Moreau was published in 1896, vivisection (experimental surgeries conducted on living animals and occasionally, humans) was gaining popularity and, as a result, a topic of great debate. Wells’s novel was used by early activists to fuel the protest against animal cruelty. While the original story undercuts religion, Gaffney’s adaptation grapples with theological issues such as the fundamental differences between humans, animals, and God, as well as what happens when this balance is upset.
As director Camille Hallstrom points out, the themes presented in Moreau are perhaps even more relevant today when human gene-splicing is practiced.
While Genesis 1 calls humans to “fill the earth and subdue it,” she noted that there are consequences to “pursuing knowledge without a limit,” particularly when we are increasingly “tempted to go too far, too fast.” She said that, even in the midst of the Information Age, “we don’t know everything we think we do.”
“It’s an excellent play,” said Hallstrom, “and such a nice discussion of science becoming god and humans becoming god.”
Hallstrom was first drawn to Moreau after meeting Gaffney in person and watching Seattle’s Taproot Theater Company bring his story to life on video. She has included the play in her Dramatic Arts and Christian Thought class curriculum for many years, but this is her first time directing the production. She said that such a large-scale production might be a challenge, but felt that it was “one we can pull off.”
Sophomore William Darby will take on the role of Moreau. Darby is a familiar face from past Covenant productions—notably Edith Stein and The New Play Festival— but this is his first lead.
According to Darby, the play “shows Moreau’s quest to create a human—something that has only been done by God in the past.”
His character exposes his god-complex through a series of monologues dispersed throughout the narrative.
“It examines a lot of themes we don’t like to think about,” said Darby. “Moreau has looked at how evil and beastly men can be and has come to the conclusion that in the same way, men can be the picture of God that they define for themselves and only have to prove it.”
He also noted that watching Moreau’s characters be performed by real people brings the novel into a tangible and perhaps more poignant dimension—particularly when boundaries between animal and human are crossed.
Prendick will be played by junior Matthew Mindeman, and Dr. Montgomery will be played by junior Joseph Klingman. Sophomore Sammie will play Kate, a mysterious islander. With a 12-person cast, the production is more extensive than many past shows.
A preview show will be held on Thursday, Feb. 18 at 8:00 p.m with discounted $3 tickets for students, staff, and seniors, and $5 tickets for other adults. The show premieres on Friday, Feb. 19 at 8:00 p.m., and will run on the 20th and 26th at 8:00 p.m. as well. A matinee performance will be held at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday 27. Tickets are $5 for students, staff, and seniors, and $7 for all other adults.
A faculty panel will discuss some of theological and scientific issues raised by Moreau after the Feb. 20 show. Biblical Studies professor and trained physician Dr. Hans Madueme, Biology professor Dr. Richard Nelson, and Dr. Hallstrom will be prepared to respond to questions from the audience.