Imagine a man who leaves behind his wife and children in search of financial stability and a better future overseas. Imagine the man finds himself stranded abroad and returns, an unrecognizable shell of his former self. Imagine the man, now lost in a world he once ruled, without hope, or the life for which he thought he was fighting for. We see this every day as troops pour home from Afghanistan and Iraq, but it’s a timeless tale told with absolute craftsmanship in Andrew White’s adaptation of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s Enoch Arden.
Enoch is a strapping young sailor in the 1700’s, determined to provide the best possible circumstances for his family. He sets sail to China in search of the resources which will keep them in comfort the rest of their lives, but instead becomes ship-wrecked, as his life at home moves forward.
The story is told by Andrew White, one of the most gifted story-tellers and actors I’ve yet to see at Fringe. He manages to bring out the heart of the characters without turning them into easy sketches, and keeps the narrative cohesive and succinct. As the production begins, the effect is that of an art gallery. Though the set is sparse, the audience feels as though they are peering into a painting of the past, still and precise, through White’s words.
At first this approach feels too removed to, well, move. Some of the text is laborious the pace slows. But with the help of well-chosen props, strong lighting choices, and White’s oratory talent, the piece begins to step out of frame and come to life.
Enoch is a man whose sacrifices were unimaginable, heart-wrenching, and selfless. At the helm of Andrew White, you won’t be able to look away.
Enoch Arden has 1 more performance, Sun, July 24 at 2pm at The Bedroom – Fort Fringe, 610 L Street NW, Washington, DC.