Like a gentle offshore breeze, SEASCAPE is light and refreshing
In SEASCAPE, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee brilliantly demonstrates the tug and pull of relationships via a happily married couple, now free of the burden of child rearing, who are discussing what to do in the next phase of their life. The spectrum of choices they face is virtually unlimited, ranging from doing anything, at any time, for any (or no) reason, to doing nothing at all.
The problem is, each prefers to do the exact opposite of what the other wants to do. The wife longs for unencumbered spontaneity, the ability to do whatever might be appealing when she wakes up in the morning. The husband prefers to just rest and relax in place for a while. And neither one wants to do either alone.
On the surface, the premise doesn’t sound particularly entertaining. But in the hands of a skillful director and accomplished actors, the play is engaging and entertaining. For comparison purposes, if you like the Jerry Seinfeld style of dialogue and situational comedy, you’ll love this TheatreWorks New Milford production of SEASCAPE.
Adding an element of surprise to the comedy/drama is the sudden appearance of a pair of sea creatures, who have left the safety of the ocean to come ashore and explore – and cause the husband and wife to re-think the advantages and disadvantages of their respective positions.
Director Chesley Plemmons, a former theater critic who has reviewed more than 2,000 stage productions, has assembled a first-rate cast and guides the effort exquisitely. Community theater productions often have minor flaws, which can be endearing and add character, much like the natural imperfections in a fine piece of wood. This production has none. It is tight and polished and a tribute to Mr. Plemmons eye for detail.
The star of this production is Noel Desiato, a Sherman resident and one of the most accomplished actresses in the area. She plays Nancy, the wife. You may remember Ms. Desiato from her sterling portrayal of Katherine Hepburn in Tea At Five.
In Nancy, Ms. Desiato portrays a loving wife who wants to regain the carefree independence – and depth of love -- of youth. When she describes what it would be like to be travel the world without worry or concern, she becomes an 18 or 20-year-old. And when she references the lack of affection and intimacy that occurs later in life, her loss is painful and real. Ms. Desiato uses every gesture, every glance, every phase to enliven her character. She cajoles or occasionally uses sarcasm to make her point, but oh, so gently, because she loves her husband and her life and just wants to make the next phase of their life together as wonderful as the one just completed.
J.Scott Williams (of Brookfield) is Charlie, the husband. Charlie is practical and a bit weary of the world, and would like to relax for a while. When Nancy suggests they could live on the deserted beach forever, Charlie responds – in his always-expect-the-worst kind of attitude. That would not be a good idea, he says, because an airliner, which occasionally flies overhead, would inevitably crash into the dunes.
Mr. Williams is perfect in his portrayal of Charlie, who is a bit exasperated at the non-stop blue-sky desires for living and travel now pouring forth from Nancy. He loves her and one suspects her enthusiasm will wear him down.
The production features two other actors in supporting roles. They are refreshing. James Hipp (Danbury), and DesiraeCarle (New Milford) portray the two sea creatures that wander ashore and help Nancy and Charlie confront their fears about an uncertain future. You might think sea creatures are asexual, but Mr. Hipp and Ms. Carle portray the creatures as masculine and feminine. Mr. Hipp is wary, protective and cautious, anticipating the worse, while Ms. Carle is more outgoing, trusting and inquisitive.
Their full-body, lizard-like costumes are magnificent and were created especially for this production by Washington resident and costume designer, Lesley Neilson-Bowman, with assistance from creature constructor Mary Hildebrand Nagler.
Others in the production team are: co-producers Richard Pettibone and Glenn R.Couture; lighting design is by Scott Wyshynski and Pettibone; set design is by Pettibone and Couture; and stage management by Kristi Petersen Schoonover.
SEASCAPE debuted on Broadway at the Shubert Theatre in 1975 and won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama.