BWW Reviews: SEASCAPE WITH SHARKS AND DANCER Examines the Push and Pull in Relationships
In Annie Hall, Woody Allen famously paraphrased Groucho Marx saying, "I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member." In SEASCAPE WITH SHARKS AND DANCER by Don Nigro, we meet two lonely people who attempt to fuse a relationship that works for both of them, but her deep seated emotional damage keeps forcing her to push him away for fear of getting to close and then having to endure the loss when it's over. Commitment phobia appears to be her first, middle and last names.
Sebastian Visconti designed the sounds of a seaside town which greet you when you walk into the theater - a combination of rolling waves, ducks quacking, birds flying, fog horns blaring, along with the varied sounds of a seaside pier. The play begins on the night librarian/aspiring writer Ben (Lane Compton) has rescued a beautiful naked woman, Tracy (Ri Versteegh) from the ocean and brought her to his decrepit Cape Cod beach house to recuperate. She claims to have been dancing in the ocean, not suicidal, but Ben has his doubts and does his best to take care of her as best he can, given his limited means.
But Ben and Tracy are polar opposites. Does their love stand a chance? Ben is an island of calm while Tracy is volatile with her moods spinning on a hair-trigger. Ben is immediately fascinated with her and falls for her. Compton plays him as a pushover, willing to be a doormat just to have female companionship. But honestly ladies, who would not want to have a caring man looking after all your needs while never forcing his will on you?
But unlike a rational female, Tracy's first impulse is try and push him away out of her fear of losing someone she cares about too much. The first act evolves and we see two people trying to work things out, both afraid to really let the other one know how much they care. He is too afraid she will run if he is honest about his feelings while she tells his she never finishes anything for fear of losing it. Versteegh plays up Tracy's neuroses to the point of bordering on madness. You just want to slap some sense into the girl, but Ben knows if he raises a hand to her she will bolt from his life.
But two months later, she is still there. Then something happens that complicates matters and more seriously threatens any chance they have to stay together. Will Tracy's constant lies and insecurities finally push Ben away? Or will Ben's inability to slump into the depths of depravity that Tracy craves finally cause her to run? It just appears their relationship has become one of the puppet and puppet master with Tracy pulling the strings to keep Ben in his place.
SEASCAPE WITH SHARKS AND DANCER strikes a note of hope for enduring love when a relationship that appears beset with challenges, finally seems to be working out - or is it? Is Tracy telling the truth or just trying to trap Ben the only way she knows how? Does she really want to stay? Does he? Such is the nature of their co-dependant love-hate relationship. The brief ray of hope at the end will appeal to any and all romantics in the audience while pessimists may just shake their heads knowing the end is near.
Director Matt Doherty's overall pace is somewhat slow making the ongoing banter and arguing get a bit tiring. But each exchange reveals more and more about what motivates the characters to behave as they do toward each other and you wind up hoping things will work out for them, mostly because who else could put up with them? But honestly, the play ends with no pat answer and room for lots of discussion. Great theater should always challenge the mind as well as entertain, and this is a fine dramatic character study presented by Doherty, Versteegh and Compton who are all lifetime members of The Actors Studio.
The play proves Woody Allen's quote from Annie Hall, "I thought of that old joke, y'know, the, this... this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, "Doc, uh, my brother's crazy; he thinks he's a chicken." And, uh, the doctor says, "Well, why don't you turn him in?" The guy says, "I would, but I need the eggs." Well, I guess that's pretty much now how I feel about relationships; y'know, they're totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd, and... but, uh, I guess we keep goin' through it because, uh, most of us... need the eggs."
SEASCAPE WITH SHARKS AND DANCER, a romantic comedy-drama by Don Nigro. Directed by Matt Doherty. Presented by I Think I Can Productions. Produced by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc. Starring Ri Versteegh and Lane Compton.