Review “Mrs. Caliban”: Interspecies Dating… Maybe?

Lifeline Theatre presents

Mrs. Calibanmrs. cal

At 6912 N. Glenwood

Based on the novel “Mrs. Caliban” by Rachel Ingalls

Adapted by Frances Limoncelli 

Directed by Ann Boyd

Thru March 28th

Buy Tickets

Running Time: Two hours includes a ten minute intermission

If a guy can fall in love with a blue tailed female alien, why can’t a woman fall in love with a green reptile man? Lifeline Theatre presents Mrs. Caliban, a play adapted from Rachel Ingalls’ magical realism novel. Dorothy is a lonely housewife. She is trapped in a loveless marriage. Too unhappy to divorce, her life becomes a series of dull rituals. Then one day, she meets a tall, dark and green male reptile. He’s from another world without emotional baggage, societal pressures (except being hunted as an escapee from the Marine Institute) or relationship expectations. This affair is simple and complicated. But what’s normal anyway? Among the wreckage of bad relationships, Mrs. Caliban introduces an alternative lifestyle choice: sex with a fish.

green love

Is it the play or book? Something about the story doesn’t thoroughly engage. “Mrs. Caliban” is a novel written in 1983 and acclaimed as one of the greatest post-war American novels by the British Book Marketing Council. Which war is that anyway? Even in a society tuned into “Desperate Housewives,” the concept of a ‘housewife’ isn’t timeless. Especially in this economy, you’re bored? Get a job! Casual affairs and relationship struggles do cross the forty year gap from conception to production. So, it must be the play adaptation.

There is a clunky translation from print to stage. Starting with the basics, where does the title come from? There is a small reference to a “Mrs. Somebody,” who advocates on behalf of the reptile man. It’s assumed the advocator is Dorothy and she is anonymously rallying under “Mrs. Caliban.” Post play, I determine “Caliban” is the antagonist character in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, described as a fish-man combo. It’s this type of omission ritualthat seems like a missed opportunity to link the audience with the story. The first act labors over illustrating the daily routine of the husband going to work but then fails to build the connection between Dorothy and the reptile.  For a gal stuck in routine, she screws a sea monster pretty fast. It’s another missing link. Treat the first act like an awkward blind date where the dinner conversation was weird but you still had hot sex!  The second act is much more satisfying as Dorothy’s complicated relationships are revealed. With all the crazy drama around her, sex with a fish seems the most authentic bond she has. 

The cast trudges through the sluggish material.  Despite the limited transition time, Brenda Barrie (Dorothy) goes from mousy to sea nymph with a strong erotic energy. Smashing grocery carts, Jenifer Tyler (Estelle) is fun as the loud and aggressive best friend. Speaking in a deliberate flat cadence, Peter Greenberg (Larry aka reptile man) delivers some funny lines without any emotion.   Mrs. Caliban, the book and sometimes the play, broadens the mind to true humanity in alien form.

A sci-fi enthusiast (geek), Shawn describes it as “stranger from a strange…ocean?”


Shawn and I decided to celebrate a single pals’ Valentine’s Day by going to Avatar followed by Mrs. Caliban.  The similarities are astounding.   Mythical tale with betrayal.  Hurtful humans, helpful aliens.  Clunky script.  Human-Alien lust.  Blue/Green. If  Shawn and I learned anything this holiday season, it’s too not limit yourself with defining Mr. Right.  Interspecies dating certainly broadens the prospect pool.  It’s a new twist on the old saying “there are plenty of fish in the sea!”

Mrs. Caliban photographs courtesy of Suzanne Plunkett.

3 Responses to “Review “Mrs. Caliban”: Interspecies Dating… Maybe?”
  1. josephmatch says:

    Brenda Barrie was so good in “Mariette in Ecstasy” at Timeline last year.

  2. Rich says:

    You must have some fun blind dates.

  3. Bob [CTA] says:

    I love this review so hard.

    I saw this show last night. eh.

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