Review: "Cetology" Travels the Waves of One Woman's Psyche


Written and performed by Nelia Miller

Directed by Michele Stine

Presented at UNDER St. Marks

94 St. Marks Place, Manhattan, NYC

Saturday, Feb. 22 at 5:30pm; Monday, Feb. 24 at 5:30pm; Thursday, Feb. 27 at 7:10pm; Monday, Mar. 2 at 5:30pm; Thursday, Mar. 5 at 8:50pm; Saturday, Mar. 7 at 10:30pm

Tickets available here

Nelia Miller. Image courtesy of Nelia Miller
When the audience enters the theater for Cetology, a solo show written and performed by Nelia Miller, drifts of discarded pages, many crumpled, already adorn the stage space. When Miller's unnamed protagonist enters barefoot in a paneled dress to the strains of gentle music, she is tranquilly paging through a journal or notebook, which, it transpires, contains the letters that she has written that day. She reads us each one, tears it out, and buries—or, in one case, seems to plant—it. As the reasons for this habit and the import of the epistolary burial site at the seashore come into focus, Miller explores the woman's loves, loss, desires, and frustrations through dialogue, movement, animation, and song.

The woman is both a wife whose husband is often absent and a mother whose son drifts without direction until he decides that he wants to follow his father. The seashore for her figures as a place both of departure and return, farewell and reunion. The title of the play, which refers to the study of whales, comes from a chapter of Herman Melville's novel Moby Dick, and both the famous white whale and a female opposite figure heavily in the symbology of the piece, as well as in the beguiling 2-D animation, projected onto a screen at the rear of the stage, that complements Miller's performance. At one point, having earlier live-looped some wordless singing, Miller adds a second set of loops to the first set of loops, layering hissing, angry sibilants over ethereal tones and making them one, as the two whales suggest the separate but singular sides of the woman, or any woman, and her relationship(s). The woman tells us that she loves the sea and she loves her husband, and she asserts that waiting is an active state and its own adventure. But what would it mean for her to act not as a new Penelope, to acknowledge her frustrations or to have them break through her placid, patient surface, to question what she thought that she wants or is waiting for?

Miller is a magnetic presence, powerfully and poetically evoking her protagonist's tenderness, her ardor, her sensuality, her melancholy, her fury. The show itself moves with the logic and rhythm of a poem, or perhaps the pulsations of seas internal and external. Catch the passionate and penetrating Cetology at the 2020 FRIGID Festival before it weighs anchor.

-John R. Ziegler and Leah Richards  

FRIGID 2020 Reviews on Thinking Theater NYC
Blockbuster Guy
Laser Comedy Show
Mother Leeds
And the Rope Still Tugging Her Feet
A Southern Fairytale

Other FRIGID 2020 listings on Thinking Theater NYC
The 500 List
Artaud Marat
Artisanal Intelligence
Beneath the Bikini
Cemetery Golf
Closed Circuit
Finding Fellini
Jaxx & Lolo: A Friendship Story
Magnetic Dragons
Nancy Drewinsky and the Search for the Missing Letter
A Southern Fairytale
The Stands
Story Time with Joey Rinaldi
This Feeling


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