Reviews for Matthew in The Whale
"Arkin impressively locates the sweetness and ingenuousness in Charlie’s open soul and transforms what might otherwise be a stunt performance into a transporting transcendence."
Myron Meisel, Hollywood Reporter
"Arkin gives a performance of such power and grace that it immediately qualifies as one of the year’s best."
Steven Stanley, Stage Scene LA
Joel Beers, OC Weekly
"Arkin is a wonder under those corpulent prosthetics (designed by Kevin Haney). His every labored breath, every chest pain, every perilous journey to a standing position is enthralling."
LA Theater Critic
"Benson has found the perfect Charlie in Matthew Arkin. His performance is a tour de force on many levels . . . Physically, the portrayal is astounding. Aided by the superb efforts of costume designer Angela Balogh Calin and prosthetics designer Kevin Haney, Arkin disappears into the character. He moves, speaks and gestures like a man who's trapped not only by obesity but by demons and ghosts . . . Charlie's sensitivity and humanity have led him to this pass, and those qualities gradually come to the fore as Hunter peels back the layers and Arkin lets us see new parts of the tortured teacher. At the end, you've stopped wondering if Charlie is Jonah, Ishmael or Whitman: he has absorbed all of those voices and stories and weaved them into a final life chapter that, tragic as it is, makes perfect sense."
Paul Hodgins, Orange County Register
"Matthew Arkin makes the audience feel for the morbidly obese, grieving and suicidal Charlie in Samuel D. Hunter's funny, angry and moving play . . . leads us far into Charlie's despondent inner reality by so fully inhabiting his massive outer shell . . . A gentle colossus who's forever apologizing for his very being, Arkin's Charlie wins our sympathy even as he suicidally scarfs another meatball sub."
Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times
"Matthew Arkin’s phenomenal lead performance . . . the “man behind the suit” brings this prosthetic effect to life in more ways in one, almost single handedly driving this entire play at full speed . . . Arkin’s ability to “flesh out” Charlie (no pun intended) is a monumental feat of theatrical craftsmanship and character dimensionality. Arkin disappears into the physicality of Charlie every time he breathes with a painful gasp or when he has to move with his walker. His adaptability with the fat body suit is absolutely profound; the most heartbreaking is when he tries to rise from the sofa and his face turns beet red from the effort. Arkin’s deteriorating physicality is matched by his emotional investment in Charlie as he combines sympathy, regret, and a little dose of optimism for his daughter’s future. But the most revealing facet about Charlie’s guilt comes in a powerful scene between him and Jennifer Christopher, most notably, when Mary barks out, “The only reason you married me in the first place was to have a kid. I know that.” Following that statement is a deathly pause between both artists, and then Arkin’s face transforms, turning sallow with increased self loathing, until he finally discovers the selfishness that fueled his past actions. It’s a layered, delicately nuanced performance by Arkin, one of the best portrayals at South Coast Repertory this 2012/2013 Season.
Peter A. Balaskas, LA Splash