Jeremy Sher's new one-man show, "Crow," about a man's solo voyage across the North Atlantic, involves elaborate and imaginative use of video, an expansive sound design and, according to Walkabout Theater, some 1,200 feet of rope. It does not, however, sail along with sufficient attention to storytelling.
The piece, written and performed by Sher, appears to be loosely based on the experience of Donald Crowhurst, one of those amateur adventurers who injudiciously took part in a solo, round-the-world race sponsored by a British newspaper in the 1960s. But the unnamed character played by Sher is, to say the least, elliptical. Despite vague references in the text to the British race, he seems to be an American, with a wife and four kids. And although it feels as if the era of the Golden Globe Race, it's never clear when or where the man is lost on the seas. Specifics are few.
In fact, precious little is clear, beyond the vague sense that the piece wants to evoke some of the feelings of being on one of those solo races, lost with your own demons and only a sea gull for a conversation partner. Probing the minds of such lone adventurers — and there have been many, of both genders and a variety of ages — is a valid artistic enterprise but there's not much consideration here of the moral dimension of a family man's attempting such quests, nor what adversity reveals in an individual. Just because a play is about a character whose mind is meandering does not necessarily give the play itself carte blanche to mimic the central character's mind with impunity, especially since Sher's character at the end of the piece does not seem appreciably different from the guy at the start. In other words, he takes no recognizable voyage.
Over the course of a 105-minute play that feels rather longer than it should, Sher certainly does plenty of work, turning the Richard Christiansen Theatre into a fair representation of a vessel at sea. Text and sound suffuse director Scott Bradley's production, often with images showing up on parts of sails or in other intriguing locales.
But there's a real disconnect between the movement and the action surrounding the rigging and the lack thereof in the actual performance. In a show such as this, the nurturing of some sort of an emphatic response from the audience surely is crucial. Alas, though, Sher feels invulnerable and thus one cares little for his fate.
So, we have a new work here, and an interesting idea. Better now to get away from the rope that ties this show into knots — and actually start communicating from the high seas.
When: Through June 17
Where: Richard Christiansen Theatre at the Biograph, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave.
Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes