Monday, June 13, 2016

The Melodious Ballad of the Pale Fisherman

Poetry in Motion

It's always a joy to see something truly original, especially as a critic. Chances often are you've seen a show multiple times, or a new piece is imbued with familiar tropes/portrayals/settings, and it can get boring to see the same thing over again.

Such is joyfully not the case with the Ballad of the Pale Fisherman, a revived piece from Transatlantic Love Affair (TLA) that is currently running at the Southern Theater. Ballad was first run five years ago as TLA's first piece at the Fringe Festival, and then had a (very) successful run as a full show a year later.

Ballad of the Pale Fisherman is styled after misty British/Celtic/Nordic fairy tales, where a man falls in love with a Selkie, or a woman who is also a seal. It's a tale of lost loves, moon lapped dreams and wistful song, one that immediately places the audience back a couple hundred years to the beaches and mythology of our Anglo ancestors. The plot is simple so I won't say much more, but trust that for any fans of romances, love long lost or lyrical storytelling, this show is for you.

The most striking aspect of Ballad is that it has no props, sets or costume changes. Instead, the entire story is told with body shapes, cast-driven sound effects and eerie lighting. Although simple, the effect is lovely, and it causes you to pay close attention to each detail of the production. Particularly gorgeous are the haunting interludes of song, which somehow perfectly evoke the seal/woman/sea connection, and the watercolor-like wash of the lights, which gently lap us in and out of land and sea. The lighting is painterly, and definitely a highlight of a show in which every detail counts.
The ensemble cast is wonderful and clearly has great chemistry. Each actor weaves in and out of multiple characters and "set pieces," and their seamless interaction keeps the show moving (clocking in at a brisk 75 minutes of total run time) and the story tight.

It's always a good idea to support small, local entities, be they farmers, shops or theater companies. It's a privilege to do so when those community groups can be so talented and fun to participate in. Transatlantic Love Affair's production is original, stirring and lyrical, a perfect transition from winter to summer and a joy of a show to watch. I highly recommend this for all theater goers; if you're interested, make sure you check it out soon. Ballad of the Pale Fisherman closes next weekend on June 17. For more information or tickets, click on this link.