7 November 2012 7:30 AM, PST | Vulture | See recent Vulture news »

The young playwright Samuel D. Hunter has got a touch of the romantic in him (in the turbid Melvillean, Hawthornean sense) and a pinch of the medieval, too: He’s got a soft spot for the mortification of the flesh. And there’s an awful lot of flesh to mortify in The Whale, Hunter’s extraordinary new almost-parable, near-melodrama about the 600-pound shut-in Charlie (the exceptional Shuler Hensley), a grief-stricken, guilt-racked man seeking a measure of reconciliation with his estranged daughter Ellie (Reyna de Courcy) before he succeeds in eating himself to death. As he did in his breakthrough play A Bright New Boise, Hunter has constructed an outsize, gothic scenario in tender miniature, against a backdrop so blandly bleak we brace ourselves for despair: The sound of cascading highway traffic braids itself with the crashing surf in Charlie's head. Is it all just too much? Never for a second. »

- Scott Brown

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