Imagine if you woke up to suddenly find, you are nearly 500 lbs. That’s basically what happens to Charlie in the Denver Center Theatre Company production of The Whale. Sure it doesn’t happen overnight but after the loss of his partner, Charlie eats. Then he eats some more.
The Whale is both fast and slow at times. There are five minutes of pure intensity and secrets and drama followed closely by five minutes of build. Two things we do know early on is that Charlie is really, really fat and close to death and also that Mormonism is going to be a BIG deal. “I can’t really speak as to why there has been such a surge of interest in the Mormon religion and culture,” says Angela Reed, who plays Charlie’s best friend Liz. “Is it just the latest subgroup to be held up for examination? Perhaps Buddhists are next?”
Tom Alan Robbins plays the central character, Charlie. He does a wonderful job of really embodying the character, consistently making at the right choices and quietly slipping in subtle nuaices throughout. “I watched as many documentaries as possible about people dealing with morbid obesity,” says Robbins. “I was able to rehearse in a suit that simulated that kind of weight gain and which weighed about 85 pounds, so that I had the actual experience of struggling against it.”
Nicole Rodenburg, who plays Charlie’s daughter Ellie, is fantastic. There are moments where you can’t believe she would do such a thing and seconds later you are drawn into her remarkable charm. Some can say that script provides these moments but it also takes a very talented actress to execute such a role.
The Whale is not for everyone, if you are looking for something cheery, happy and something that will keep you smiling all night then this is the wrong show for you. There is quite a bit of foul language and lewd conduct. Not to mention, the overwhelming reference to Mormon religion. This production is best suited for those who are ready to accept whatever may come and aren’t easily offended. It’s a wonderful piece of modern theatre for the modern theatre goer.
Denver Center Theatre Company
The Ricketson Theatre