As I watched Transatlantic Love Affair’s Ballad of the Pale Fisherman unfold, I couldn’t help but think of it as a fairy tale for adults. One day, when the fisherman casts his net, he pulls in a seal with his catch who sheds her skin to reveal a beautiful woman. They lose her skin in the sea, and she needs it to return to the water, so she ends up going home with him. Over time, they grow to love each other, but the sea continues to call for her.
In typical TLA fashion, there are no set pieces and no props. Yet, the way in which they perform, you see everything that’s not there. The net that the fisherman casts. The clothes that the women wash in the sea. The bar top that the barkeep cleans. Even the sea breeze – you can almost smell it. That’s the magic of TLA.
The show starts with Derek Lee Miller stepping forward to take a seat as an old man who’s the narrator of the story. His accordion provides the only music, and he also uses the bellows to mimic the sounds of the sea.
Little by little, we meet a lovely cast of characters who all provide charm and humor in their own way. My favorites are the little old ladies who fix the fishermen’s nets and try to keep up with all the goings on of their little town. Adelin Phelps is a scene stealer who’ll have you in stitches, and they all felt like they were plucked out of These Old Shoes, another TLA favorite of mine (ok, so they’re all favorites, let’s be honest). Heather Bunch, Alex Hathaway and Allison Witham are delightful to watch, and the chemistry between everyone is effortless and perfect.
As the lead couple, Diogo Lopes and Emily King have just the right amount of tension but affection towards each other as they attempt to learn how to live together. He’s promises her that he won’t stop searching for her skin, but when the time comes, will he be prepared to release her back where she belongs?
Over time, she grows to enjoy being in the community, but it’s obvious that the sea is calling to her. She’s trying to make the best of the situation, but what do you do when you realize that you’re in a place where you can’t truly be yourself? You may find a certain way of life incredibly appealing for many reasons, but that doesn’t mean you can force it into being the right way of life for yourself.
TLA continually manages to present a concise, thoughtful, beautiful, and moving story. This show is yet another reason they will remain at the top of my must-see list.
Ballad of the Pale Fisherman by Transatlantic Love Affair
1420 South Washington Avenue