Hollywood Fringe 2016
Plucky server seeks justice for her dead sister.
In 2010 a trainer as Seaworld was killed by the whale she trained; and she wasn’t its first victim. Seaworld’s publicity machine went into overdrive to limit the damage this fatality would do. This seems like great source material for a book or film like “Spotlight” or “All The President’s Men”. Maybe (and probably wisely) fearing lawsuits, playwright Brett Epstein has not gone down that path. Instead he has written “#Whalefail”, a joky roman a clef about “Ocean Planet”.
Bridget (Sherry Berg) attends the funeral of her much-loved sister Ivy, she meets a young trainer Ralph (Jamie Engber) who worked with Ivy and who feels there’s something fishy about the way Ocean Planet is spinning the tragedy. An uneasy courtship ensues as Bridget tries to at least make sure that similar tragedies are avoided in the future.
The attempted marrying of investigative journalism and romantic comedy is not entirely successful but the hard-working cast of four are all great and the show has lots of heart, all of it in the right place.
Sherry Berg is a dynamic performer who pushes the piece forward admirably, fuelled by a righteous anger.
The framing device of a documentary film maker (Claire Chapelli, who also plays Ivy in flashbacks, and a disturbing dream whale) stumbling upon Bridget at a diner, long after Bridget herself had given up her quest for the truth, seems slightly unfulfilling, we wanted our plucky heroine to bring the corporation down with the help of just the nerdy Ralph.
Clayton Farris plays Roger, the smarmy and ruthless public face of Ocean Planet.
There is a somewhat cinematic feel to the show with short scenes, flashbacks, and underscored sections when Bridget is a maelstrom of mixed emotions about her late sister and her new (sort-of) boyfriend and partner in detection.
The message of the piece is very clear; it is madness to take an animal that swims 100 miles a day in the wild and expect it to stay sane and healthy in a confines of an amusement park. The argument that the park is doing educational work and taking good care of the animals is flimsy at best.
The audience I was part of had a different demographic to most fringe offerings, team #Whalefail have clearly cast their nets wide and have managed to reach the people for whom this show resonates.
I hope the show has further life in a bigger venue that may better accommodate the cinematic stylings. I recommend this show.