Holden Street Theatres
Until 14 Mar 2020

Review by Sarah Westgarth

Casey Jay Andrews is a wonder with words and a master of metaphor. To borrow from another great storyteller, she builds palaces out of paragraphs. Andrews returns to Holden Street Theatres for the second time, after her award-winning production of “The Archive of Educated Hearts” was critically acclaimed in 2019. Those who were lucky enough to catch this production last year will not be disappointed with her newest offering: a surreal, suburban reimagining of “Moby Dick”, written and performed by solely by Andrews in an outdoor setting.

If you are unfamiliar with the classic source material, do not let this deter you. While there are allusions and references used throughout, “The Wild Unfeeling World” stands on its own as a deeply moving exploration of a person in crisis. The show tells the story of Dylan, a young woman who, at 4:30am on a Friday finds herself stuck with a broken down car, a lost job, an eviction, and no wallet or phone due to a recent mugging. How do you respond when all seems lost? Who do you turn to when the world has seemingly turned against you? And how do you move forward when you feel like the cause of your own problems?

These are not easy questions, and Andrews poses no easy solutions. Instead, “The Wild Unfeeling World” is a vulnerable and compassionate portrait of desperation, fear, and guilt. The combination of her poetry and performance articulates the feeling of being overwhelmed and isolated by the world. Her description of our tendency to make our crises palatable to the people we are reaching out to, so as not to appear a burden, is a striking and eloquent observation of a part of being a human we rarely talk about openly. Andrews truly has a gift with using words to explain what is seemingly ineffable. Her use of language is evocative and interesting, with the ability to shift between the silly and the serious without being jarring.

This is found in her portrayal as well, as she bounces between what feels like a casual chat with the audience, to delivering a compelling dramatic monologue that is vulnerable and bleeds authenticity. At times the dialogue and ideas move at such a pace that it can be difficult to take it all in, and there may be a risk of some audiences getting a little lost. However, even in the weightier or more surreal moments—as the show does dabble in magical realism—you trust Andrews to go wherever she wants to take you.

Director Steve McCourt stages the show simply, with only a few simple props in use (including several buckets of water that require some audience participation) allowing Andrews to remain the focus. This is a show that relies on the intimate connection between the audience and performer so the less that gets in her way, the better, though the story is beautifully enhanced by the original compositions of George Jennings. The sound is also run by Andrews throughout the show; this works well and keeps her in control of the pace of the show (which can become quite hectic), though it would be interesting to see a version where her role as the performer is maintained.

Just like “Moby Dick” is about more than just hunting a whale, “The Wild Unfeeling World” is about more than a woman having a bad day. It’s about the importance of kindness and compassion, the power of self-forgiveness, and the ability to find joy in the most unexpected places. And so many other experiences that will resonate with every audience member differently. Yes, it is about being at your lowest point, but knowing that after that, things can get better. There is a great hope to be found here, evident in the tenderness with which the character is written and performed. We all know what it’s like to have the world seem wild and unfeeling. Casey Jay Andrews provides comfort and even joy in acknowledging this and seeing this. This is a story that sees you. What a powerful and incredible thing.

Rating 4.5 stars (out of 5)