Crow’s Voyage Becomes A Tangled Tale

What attributes make a man and what is his manifest destiny are questions posed in Jeremy Sher’s new one man show, ‘Crow’ which opened last week at the Victory Garden’s Theater.  Each in itself an intriguing notion and even more pronounced when juxtaposed with the tremendous loneliness of the high seas.  Supposedly based on the story of Donald Crowhurst, a British businessman who took part in a late 1960’s boating race around the world to win a cash prize in order to save his company that was near bankruptcy. As the race got underway, Crowhurst lied about his coordinates, never actually taking part in the event.  He supposedly went insane on the high seas and committed suicide.

In Sher’s ‘Crow’, presented by Walkabout Theater, there is an overwhelming sense of confusion in the storytelling, to the point where audience members were asking me what they had just seen.  The reason is that there are some large gaps in the through line of the story to get us from point A to point B.  In ‘Crow’, Crowhurst (who I guess is American) is having financial and marital troubles, all impacting on his ego.  To quell this notion that he is not a good provider, what else would a sane father of 4 do but risk life and limb and race around the world after convincing a financial backer that his unique three hulled boat will easily beat the rest of the competition.

As ‘Crow’ embarks on his race, he weaves in tales of relationships, religion and solemn pathology.  A great portion of the conversations are between Sher and a crow (or more likely a seagull) that seems to follow his vessel. We do see Sher’s mind begin to unravel, however, we are still left with the opening scene of Crowhurst successfully finishing the race, facing the media and reuniting with his wife and children (where I am sure in lies the confusion).   Because of this, there is a lost opportunity to explore the actual psychosis of what causes a person to perpetuate such a roost and put his ego before his wife and children.

Throughout the production, Mr. Sher is utterly captivating as an actor, capturing the emotional gravitas needed at each pivotal juncture.  Under the precise direction of Scott Bradley, Sher is aided by his carefully choreographed ‘dance’ with the vessel’s rope and sails.  By the time the story is finished (70 minutes) the set is transformed into a spectacular rope laden vessel that allows Sher to climb, fall and swing, becoming as much a part of the story as the dialogue itself.

Hopefully this is not the last incarnation of this play.  With some focused rewrites, the story of Mr. Crowhurst could be a riveting tale showing the dissent of the human mind.  As it stands now, the story is as tangled as the knots Crowhurst ties for survival.

Crow plays through June 17 at the Victory Garden’s Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, 6-614.  For tickets, please call 773.871.3000 or visit www.walkabouttheater.org