BWW Review: WHAT WE SCREAM UNDERWATER WHEN NO ONE CAN HEAR US at Texas State University
Texas State University's production of WHAT WE SCREAM UNDERWATER WHEN NO ONE CAN HEAR US by Caitlin Turnage deals with sexuality and religion in a way that is incredibly truthful and joy to behold.
WHAT WE SCREAM UNDERWATER follows the 15-year friendship turned romance between Savannah (Morgen Amalbert) and Georgia (Payton Bioletto). The show is broken up into three points in the two's relationship with speeches from the two characters distributed throughout. Starting at as incidental partners for their conservative, Christian high school's swim team, Savannah and Georgia have to deal with both internal and external homophobia that ends up tearing them apart. The two meet up as the years go on, leaving the audience with the promise of a real romantic relationship between the characters.
Director Allison Price did a stunning job leading her two actors into truly genuine performances. Price's choice to keep the two women in the corners as each would give their respective speeches was heartbreaking. Having to watch the two struggle through presenting their truth while the other just has to stand there and watch was painful in the best way. The direction truly shined in the moments where the two characters would kiss. Each kiss would take place underwater and turned into a dance performance that encapsulated what each was feeling. The final kiss was the pièce de résistance. It was cathartic and full of joy as each woman decided that they would be true to who they really are.
The lighting design by Alexandra Thomas was simplistic but beautifully done. Due to the decision to not have a physical set, that responsibility was put on the lighting design to show the audience where they were in the story. Thomas was able to create swimming pools with blue lighting in a rectangle coming out of the risers that the audience was on three different sides to symbolize the three times the characters met in the 15 years that the show takes place over.
The sound design by Ryan Middleton was subtle but stunning, sweeping music filled the space as the kisses turn into dances. Middleton was able to bring in the sound elements in a way that was extremely natural. Every moment where there was sexual tension between the two characters, there would be wind chimes that would move seamlessly into the music choice for the moments when they would finally kiss. When Georgia and Savannah are giving their respective speeches, there would be the hum of a microphone that not only showed what was happening, but emphasized how momentous these speeches were for the characters.
Amalbert and Bioletto were able to create characters that were so grounded and real that at times it felt like we were watching someone's life instead of a play. Amalbert's 17-year-old Savannah was insanely charismatic and her comedic timing emphasized just how grounded and real this character was. That being said, she was also able to show just how much the internal homophobia that was taught to her at a young age affected her as she grew up. So, by the time that she accepts who she truly is, you could see a weight being lifted off of her shoulders.
Bioletto's Georgia was headstrong and driven. She balanced being able to show the audience what was going on in her head while still having walls built up that didn't let anyone in too much. As her character aged and eventually lost everything due to a torn ACL at an Olympic qualifier, the anger and frustration that was at the core of the character came to a head. Where Bioletto truly shined was in her speech, there was a vulnerability that was heartbreaking as she shared some of the most intimate details about her life in a space where she had once been devastated.
WHAT WE SCREAM UNDERWATER WHEN NO ONE CAN HEAR US is a show that is unlike anything I have ever experienced. A huge congratulation to the entire company for creating a piece that speaks to the soul of an experience that hundreds of people have had to face.
WHAT WE SCREAM UNDERWATER WHEN NO ONE CAN HEAR US is produced by Texas State Department of Theatre and Dance at the PSH Foundation Studio (430 Moon St, San Marcos, TX 78666).
Performances Feb. 21-23 at 7:30 PM and Feb. 24 at 2:30 PM. This run is SOLD OUT. Tickets 512-245-6500 and txstatepresents.com. PARKING: If you do not have a Texas State University Parking Tag, parking will be directed to the Edward Gary Parking Garage a fee based parking facility. You can pre-purchase discounted parking for $6.00 at www.txstatepresents.com. Once you park, you will be able to pick up the parking pass at the box office when you arrive. Parking passes will be available at the Box Office window as well. The discount is approximately $2.00 to $4.00 depending on how long you stay. With the parking passes, at the end of the night, you will go directly to your car and use the parking pass at the gate when you exit.