The one-word title of Edward Albee’s play Seascape belies what is to take place onstage. This simple moniker does nothing to prepare us for what is about to happen to our protagonists, Nancy and Charlie, as they while away an afternoon by the sea.
Seascape is the second production of new theatre house South Stream Productions, whose first play was Copenhagen. This second endeavor has a cast of only four, but don’t let the small size fool you. This show packs a punch that we cannot see coming, mostly because Albee allows most of the first act to pass before we meet the “other” couple in this play. For most of Act I, we get to know Nancy (Julie Oliver) and Charlie (John Honeycutt) as they soak up some sun on a beach somewhere. Oliver and Honeycutt worked tremendously well together, establishing their characters’ lives together over the many years, now counting the grandchildren, now wondering what is to come next, since Charlie is retired now and the kids have grown and gone. Most of Act I is a debate, hilariously staged, between doing nothing, which is what Charlie advocates, and doing, well, something, which is what Nancy prefers. What the two must come up with, while they dally on the sandy beach, is what they are going to do with their lives. Things have got to change.
And change they do, with the arrival of Leslie (Ryan Brock) and Sarah (Samantha Corey). The couple makes their entrance just shy of the end of Act I, and their presence brings Charlie and Nancy up short. And us, too. For Leslie and Sarah are, well, lizards. Man-sized, to be sure, but lizards nonetheless. Nancy and Charlie are so taken aback that they assume postures of submission just so these monsters will not attack them. Surprisingly enough, after a cursory inspection, Leslie and Sarah decide these two are “probably harmless,” and attempt to communicate with the two humans. Not surprisingly, the lizards speak English.
Albee uses this scenario to make Nancy and Charlie look closely at their lives, just as these two aliens from the deep examine what makes these two land dwellers tick. Leslie is dominant and uses the growl to his benefit as he tries to understand what Charlie is explaining to him. Sarah, like Nancy, is the more adventurous of the two, finding this new set of creatures “fascinating,” and keeping Leslie in check, because Charlie and Nancy are “different” and it is causing Leslie difficulties. Watching these four as they attempt to understand each other is in itself fascinating.
Sporting costumes by Shannon Clark, Leslie and Sarah are beautiful specimens, and their movements were wonderfully well performed and fluid by Brock and Corey. Oliver and Honeycutt were themselves wonderful as their characters found themselves woefully inadequate as greeters of a new species. They may not be the best representatives of mankind, but they try their best to explain what mankind is and how we function.
Director Brook North brings these four together on a set designed by Todd Houseknecht, comprising a lovely and quite realistic sand dune and a beach strewn with rocks and driftwood. North understands ensemble acting, and the interaction between these two species is both hilarious on one level and beautiful on another. There is conflict, communication, and not a small amount of understanding taking place. These four actors worked superlatively well in conveying to their audience the difficulties inherent in interspecies communication.
South Stream Productions has created for their second production a funny and beautiful work that expresses tremendously well what Albee is trying to say, which is, change is the only thing that we know will come about, and it will come about whether or not we are prepared for it.
It is how we come to grips with change, fantastic as it may be, that decides what kind of a people we are to become.
Seascape continues through Sunday, January 19. For more details on this production, please view the sidebar.