Addressing Addiction Through Theatre
In recent months, there have been several films and television shows addressing addiction and the opioid crisis. But one other outlet that makes the experience especially personal is live theatre. And over on Broadway in New York, a new play is getting rave reviews for the way it is bringing a tough topic to audiences.
Chasing The New White Whale is the name of the critically-acclaimed new production. Already heavily praised by The New York Times, it is continually selling out and gaining notoriety across the country. Not only is White Whale extremely topical, it is also unique and highly creative. Written by up-and-comer Mike Gorman, the dramedy actually takes elements from the classic novel Moby Dick and ties them back to the opioid epidemic.
Its focus is the working class of New England, as a young fisherman named Robby hunts for the perfect catch and the perfect high. The memorable line is “I’ve got one more trip to nab the big one, then I’m out.” This, of course, can be applied to a prized sea bass and one more shot at the heroin needle. As The Post emphasizes, it’s a heavy subject not meant for children; but it honestly portrays the grim demons that can pull good people into very bad directions.
The allegories continue from there. In dark moments, Robby encounters what appears to be a ghost ship. In truth, the haunted sailors are hallucinations from his drug experiences and represent the zombielike state those suffering from these dependencies face. Robby also faces a heavy storm when he is out to sea. This represents weathering through an overdose and the life and death situations shooting up can create.
As mentioned in the article, Gorman has his own personal connection to the crisis. His brother was both a fisherman and a heroin addict. After a fatal overdose, Mike told the site that he had made it his mission to bring this harsh message into his artistic vision.
Though The Times didn’t call it a perfect production, there was a lot of admiration for what Gorman has set out to achieve. As writer Elisabeth Vincentelli explained, “the core of this story is the big takeaway: a man, tossed about by life and elements, trying to survive.”
We certainly appreciate Gorman translating these themes for a engaging stage play and hope to see similar productions make their way to theaters across the country.