Review: ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,’ With a Message on the Environment

Monday, October 3, 2016

Theatergoers, there’s no need to pack scuba gear or even a snorkel mask to plunge into the ocean deep. In Craig Francis and Rick Miller’s “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,” a frisky adaptation of the Jules Verne sci-fi saga at the New Victory Theater, a few actors, a few more props and some extremely nifty projections send the audience right to the seafl oor. Hey, look out for that squid!

A show by Kidoons and WYRD Productions, designed for theatrical divers 8 years old and up, “Twenty Thousand Leagues” is more than a straightforward reworking of the novel, in ways both good and bad. It begins with another Jules (Mr. Miller, who also directs), a dreamy grad student who can’t quite fi nish his downer dissertation: “Downward Spiral: Inevitable Collapse of Ocean Ecosystems.”

Instead of writing about that, he decides, via a live feed and some action fi gures, to create a toy theater version of the Verne classic, imagining his academic adviser (Suzy Jane Hunt) as the story’s hero, Professor Aronnax. But somehow the story overtakes him, and other characters — the harpooner, Ned Land (Marcel Jeannin), and the darkly mysterious Captain Nemo (Richard Clarkin) — also appear. Amid the adventures, there are meditations on narrative, on knowledge and on the oceans’ fragile ecosystems.

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