BWW Review: APT's Sensational SEASCAPE Signals Life's Evolution
In the intimate American Players Theatre's (APT) Touchstone Amphitheater, Edward Albee's 1975 Pulitzer Prize winning play Seascape premiered on Saturday afternoon---perhaps with greater resonance in this century than when originally produced. Director Laura Gordon returns to the drams after directing Milwaukee Rep's 2007 production in the Stiemke Studio along with APT company member Cristina Panfilio. Panfilio agian performed the role of Sarah, the coming up from the ocean floor lizard wife of Leslie. This stellar duo continues to define Albee's play with sensitivity and endearing wit, along with fellow actors Sarah Day, Jonathan Smoots and LeShawn Banks.
Renowned American playwright Albee sets the audience and his characters on a supposed Northeastern Cape Cod beach, although the mind could imagine any earthly rocky crags along a vast shoreline., This appears in Door County looking over Lake Michigan or Devil's Lake and those vast rock-climbable cliffs, both familiar landscapes in Wisconsin. Here on a summer afternoon, Charlie and Nancy attempt to navigate a long term marriage. They've both exeperienced being "a good husband" and "a good wife," reaffirming to each other they have led "a good ilfe." So each seriously questions what they want moving forward in the future: a well-earned rest or what else could be next? Day joins Smoots in the roles of Nancy and Charlie while the agile LeShawn Banks couples with the ever enchanting Panfilio to play lizards Sarah and Leslie.
in the entire performance, Day remains effervescent and luminous while her Nancy struggles to push her husband for answers to the 'more' in their third chapter of life--a life expecting more to explore while they have each other to hold in their arms and "good" health. She's a perfect foil for the recalcitrant Charlie, a made to appear older Smoots who passivley tries to overcome his Nancy, in understated moodiness while his furrowed brows and frowns appear whenever Nancy suggests a move towards exposing her curiosity in what could be for the two of them.
Their poignant banter might reflect millions of baby boomers living longer than when Albee wrote the script 40 years ago. His time a time when men, and also women, might only live to 65 or 70, an age where a proper rest might be earned before an early mortality everyone faces. Today that "rest" many hope for may not be an option, or even desired as humankind lives healthy well into their 80's, adding another 15 years to a fruitful life. Or perhaps sadly, one partner wishes to nullify the contract, unwilling to renegotiate the marriage and walk away, or to continue the sea metaphor, sail away to another shore instead of staying afloat in their original boat. The evolving state of long term-marriages until death do us part looms large in 2015. more than Albee could have imagined then.
Yet, imagine Albee did in 75, and his surreal lizards appear befoe the terrified and amazed Charlie and Nancy, when Charlie thinks he might have died because he sees and talks to these creatures. The absolutely beautiful emerald green and glittering lizards named Sarah and Leslie created by Costume Designer Devon Painter rise from the sea like precious jewels tjhat sparkle to challenge the disparaging pair so they might re-envison their own couplehood.
Banks confidently plays the overprotective Leslie with cunning aplomb, a lizard who loves his enormous tail. A tail that over eons will fall to the wayside in the biological process of evolution Charlie tries to explain to him. Alongside her reptilian partner, Panfilio's endearing Sarah connects to audiences, especially when she begins to cry realizing what would happen to her if Leslie left her for a long, long time and never came back. All these emotions, some described to the lizards as love, become part of the education Nancy and Charlie impart to the remarkable amphibians who interrupted their pleaant vacation by the sea.
Through the meeting of these two couples, one animal and another human, theatergoers might revisit their personal dilemmas of navigagting any storms of change...With the possible demise of social security and an increasing age to attain those retirement benefits currently in the news, what does the "mature' couple plan for? What does any married couple plan for when children leave for college or permanently leave home?When do careers change into the ever after for single individuals or for those without children when dreaming what life fantasies could follow? Transitions create conflict, and will there be any rest, or only continuous travels into the unknown for those who ask these questions?
As Albee somehow foreshadows, evolution, whether for the llizards, a married couple, or an indiividual, is a process--one destined to be a forward progression to begin anew in a positiive way. While Nancy and Charlie discover a passionate kiss reonnects them and brings them back to life, the friendship proposed by Sarah and Leslie offers another unforeseen, unexpected path to reinvent their lives together. These processes, as Albee wrote about in the 70's, constantly evolve as men/women live longer and many of earth's creatures face extinction. What journey does Albee launch for the contemporary 21st century seascape because these societal institutions continue to transform?
In this sensational Touchstone Seascape, every theme Albee addressed in his award winning play resurfaces through comedy, conflict, drama, fantasy and renewal iin impressive, witty touches of realism and depcits evolution on muliple levels. One older couple in the audience, past Nancy and Charlies' inteneded ages, held hands throughout the entire performance. This touching affection signals a reminder theater connects everyone to the present moment, recapturing dreams or paths to a future waiting after the show closes to begin.
To further communicate this sublime theater experience to an audience, consummate director, Gordon demonstarates a unique flair for using music to underscore prime elements of a play, connecting every detail in a production to the themes. As the audience entered and then leaves the APT theater for Seascape, strains of Sondheim's "By the Sea" from his unconventional musical Sweeney Todd beg Albee's incisive questions: "By the sea, anything you say?/ Don't you love the weather?/We can grow old together/By the beautiful sea."
American Players Theatre presents Edward Albee's Seascape at Spring Green's Touchstone Theatre through the remainder of the 2015 season For information on schedules, special events, and tickets, please call 608.588.2361 or www.americanplayers.org.