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Reviewed by Ethan Silver

Seascape Photo 1

The beach is a compelling setting for a play.  The waves lapping against the shore and the cool breeze make for a perfect, relaxing setting for a vacationing couple.  Of course, this would be true if the couple was actually getting along, but in Edward Albee’s Pulitzer Prize winning play, Seascape, Charlie (Alan Schack) and Nancy (Arden Teresa Lewis) are not exactly arm-in-arm.  Now in their senior years, Charlie wants to take some well-deserved time off after leading a very active life and Sarah wants to take in everything that the beach and life have to offer. A nice day at the beach turns into an all-out discussion about their declining relationship, until they are interrupted by Leslie (Paul Gunning) and Sarah (Kristin Wiegand) who arrives as lizards.  Yes, lizards.  Having evolved past others of their kind, Leslie and Sarah decide to leave the sea behind and venture onto land, but when they encounter the fighting beachside couple, a shocking dose of reality may change everything.

This is a difficult piece for an actor, because the plot purposely takes the characters through several emotional boomerangs to an absurd degree, obscuring any hope for a defined character arc.  The cast does a fine job of playing to reality in a situation where the reality of the play lies in a dimension outside our own.  Lewis hits her mark as Nancy, the loquacious dreamer, and Schack’s portrayal of the complacent Charlie is well grounded and dead on.  Without solid actors in these roles, the play would fall falter, but the true gems of the piece are the lizards, Leslie and Sarah.  Gunning and Wiegand are phenomenal as Leslie, the cautious and dominant male lizard, and Sarah the curious and experiential female.  The beautiful costumes (Joanie Coyote) give the audience an impressive visual and when combined with Gunning and Wiegand’s commitment to body language, movement and acting the audience is treated to a pair of convincing talking lizards.  This is imperative to the play, for if these characters are not believable, the story loses all integrity.

Act I gives the audience an understanding of the rocky state of the relationship between Charlie and Nancy, mostly from Nancy’s point of view.  This exposition continues until just before the end of the act, when the couple has their first encounter with the two lizards.  The contrast between the drama leading up to this moment and the absurdity of the lizards’ appearance was so stark that it had the audience in stitches.  The laughs continue with the opening of the second act, igniting a spark onstage between the actors.  This dynamic soon changes to a more serious tone when miscommunication ensues and boundaries are pushed, culminating in an inter-species brawl and some dramatic realizations for all.  Fortunately or unfortunately, all things much evolve whether one likes it or not.

Seascape is a difficult play to classify.  Although it has comedic moments (including a hilarious introduction of the two species) the production is generally dramatic with strong elements of the absurd.  Playwright, Albee, is known for his somewhat less-than-positive view of the human condition which is quite evident in this piece and therefore, not recommended for children.  The play is dialogue heavy and delves into both adult and abstract themes such as mortality, love, complacency, marriage and the evolution thereof.  It is recommended for those who enjoy a good absurdist think piece as well as for an older demographic with relatable life experience similar to that of the characters.  Such audience members were heard leaving the theater uttering compliments such as, “excellent” and “very well done.”

The creative team deserves commendation as the production is beautifully staged thanks to Producer/Director/Sound Designer, Charlie Mount.  Jeff G. Rack’s set design provides a realistic beach environment with multiple levels, allowing the actors plenty of usable space.  All is well lit with the appropriate variations, thanks to a lighting design by Yancey Dunham.

You can see Edward Albee’s Seascape at Theatre West in Los Angeles, California through October 16 every Friday and Saturday at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm.

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