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BWW Review: A Brilliant SEA MARKS from Stage to Screen at Irish Classical Theatre


A Brilliant Sea Marks from Stage To Screen

BWW Review: A Brilliant SEA MARKS from Stage to Screen at Irish Classical Theatre Even the untamable powers of the sea could not keep Buffalo's Irish Classical Theatre from beginning it's 30th season under a veil of a pandemic. Artistic Director Kate LoConti Alcocer has joined forces with Buffalo's own Pan-American Film Division to bring theatre into it's audience's homes with their newest venture. And the result is captivating as we watch a powerful production of Gardner McKay's SEA MARKS filmed on the ANDREWS THEATRE stage. The intimacy that audiences have come to know and expect at Irish Classical is heightened without being overly cinematic in it's approach.

Two worlds join in McKay's lovely play as the isolated fisherman Colm Primrose has a brief encounter at a wedding with a visitor from Liverpool, Timothea Stiles. Colm lives a solitary life in Cliffhorn Heads in the west of Ireland , but becomes entranced by Timothea. He seeks out her address, which begins a series of mail correspondences between the two strangers. The missives turn from cordial to love letters within a year and a half and they finally meet. Being a member of a publishing house, she is smitten with his messages, but also with his writing, almost poetic in nature. The tale of the fisherman and the city girl ebbs and flows, but this two character play unfolds with a third powerful character, the sea itself. McKay masterfully creates excitement and tension in the budding relationship from the outset. Will they like and eventually love each other, as they had in their letters. Can they fill each other's voids of deep loneliness? McKay transforms a rough fisherman into a fascinating observer of nature and the power of the sea. His letters flourish, but once the two spend time together, his actions don't always match his words. Shy, sexually inexperienced, and prone to drinking, Colm must learn how to express his emotions and choose between a life together with his new lover, or a life alone with his first love, the sea.

Chris Kelly is Colm, giving an emotionally charged and deeply insightful portrayal of this shy but complex character. His first meeting with Timothea, played by Kristen Tripp Kelley, is tense and awkward. The audience must wonder if any physical relationship is even possible. But the two find a great rhythm and their chemistry is more than that of romantic pen pals. Ms. Kelley finds all the subtlety needed to ingratiate herself to Colm. It becomes clear that the two have the potential for a real romance and this reviewer was intrigued to see how this complex pairing would get on. Both he and she ( Mr. Kelly and Ms. Kelley) have done a fine job of falling in love in front our our eyes. And here is where stage director Fortunato Pezzimenti and Film Director Travis Carlson have created something magical. They have allowed the audience to serve as an eavesdropper on the proceedings. Through creative camera angles and close ups that are never too close, the play feels at home on the screen, instead of as a film on a soundset. We are on the floor as the two lie on the floor, or looking through the same window as the actors. Wide shots are used to give an overview of the setting, but the lighting by Jayson Clark and cinematography of Marc Davies can remove the actor from the physical world to a world of their inner thoughts or nightmares.

Pezzimenti had a long rehearsal period with his team, and the cast of two of Buffalo's finest actors is superb at every turn. Mr. Pezzimenti directs with a gentle touch, allowing the action to unfold naturally but with the tension that is found with a new love. Chris Kelly has proven that his knack for creative directing comes from his adept acting skills. He is brusque when needed, but forthright. When his love letters are turned into a book by Timothea, his myriad of emotions was truly unsettling, leaving the audience questioning whether he would storm out in anger or bust with joy. Kristen Tripp Kelley brings this delicate and vulnerable woman to life, with the ease and grace reminiscent of Deborah Kerr. Ms. Kelley is compelling in her quiet patience with Colm, having to relive tortured memories from her youth and a failed marriage. When Colm learns that a critique of his writing refers to him as primitive, he unravels before our eyes. Thoughts of himself as being a stupid fisherman are tough to comprehend, and Mr. Kelly embodies rage and confusion. Memories of his life as a man of the sea in his small but oppressive sea town always tug him back to his former life, to be with his only friend and partner, the MacAfee.

McKay revels in creating a character like Colm, who sees the world though poetry. McKay writes a beautiful final soliloquy of sorts as Colm reads from his book to a Wednesday Afternoon Club. In giving the background of his life prior to the reading, Colm exposes his inner soul and demons, telling all that "the sea is never simple." The metaphor never grows old and the draw of a seaside life for Colm and a city life for Timothea provides just the right amount of conflict to make their complicated love story fitting for the stage.

SEA MARKS is available to purchase for a one time on line viewing until November 1, 2020. Contact irishclassical.comfor more information.

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