At the outset of Typee, Herman Melville’s factually irresponsible narrative of his time in Polynesia, a flotilla of Marquesan girls swims out to the author’s harbored ship. With his usual air of subterfuge, Melville describes their warm welcome to the sailors as an act of high-seas piracy:

The ‘Dolly’ was fairly captured; and never I will say was vessel carried before by such a dashing and irresistible party of boarders! The ship taken, we could not do otherwise than yield ourselves prisoners, and for the whole period that she remained in the bay, the ‘Dolly,” as well as her crew, were completely in the hands of the mermaids.

Starting with the conspicuous choice of “vessel” instead of “craft” or “ship,” Melville twists the martial idiom of swashbuckling into a sustained euphemism for the many acts of unbuckling that undoubtedly transpired on deck. The scene that follows Melville characterizes by its “riot and debauchery”: “the grossest licentiousness and the most shameful inebriety prevailed, with occasional and but short-lived interruptions.” The lucky spectator of Moby-Dick! The Musical is not unlikely to undergo a similar experience once the players of San Francisco’s Theatre Rhinoceros have taken the stage.

More later, but the run ends on the 19th, so don’t wait on my last word to see this thing.

Advertisements