According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Sea

English town folk are put in a dither when a young man on his way back to his fiance by sea washes up ashore. British Playwright Edward Bond's rarely produced, light tragicomedy is not as “riotously funny” as the marketing proclaims, but the Beckett Theatre's under-priced production of it is top-notch.
Photo credit: Jennifer Maufrais


Reviewed by Cindy Pierre

Choppy waters, roaring thunder, and the startling crack of lighting. Is it a nautical, cinematic experience? No. It's Beckett Theatre's very memorable production of Edward Bond's The Sea. The opening sequences are so vivid, you may need dramamine. Expertly handled by lighting (Mary Louise Geiger and Lucrezia Briceno), sound (Daryl Bornstein) and set design (Narelle Sissons) to simulate a thunderstorm, the stage is a rocking ship to the audience's unwitting sailors. And that is just the beginning of what pans out to be an inspired and impressive theatrical experience.

Bond's script, considered to be one if not his most conservative effort, is influenced by his childhood during World War II. The actual setting of The Sea in 1907, however, predates World War I. It is a retrospective, commentative look at the indifferent, self-involved, unprepared, dismissive and somewhat incompetent climate that existed before the world came to arms. And it's executed with gentle tones and levity, sometimes to ridiculous measure. It centers around Colin, a young villager who drowns while navigating the sea with Willy Carson (an earnest Allen E. Read), a visitor to the town who survives the storm. That Colin is the symbolic “first strike” to the town's acceptance of the impending war is both poignant and unsettling given the town's preoccupation with draperies and sub-par stagings of Orpheus.

What unfurls after Colin's tragic death is a social critique enlivened by TACTfully-brilliant (a pun for The Actors Company Theatre company cast members) and frenzied performances directed by Scott Alan Evans, wonderful period costuming by David Toser and a creative and practical set design by Sissons. The cast does not mince time between set changes, demonstrating their professionalism both on and off the stage with quick scene changes carried out with propelling, upbeat music. Bond has created some captivating characters, most notably the manic and passionate draper Hatch (a superb Greg McFadden). Hatch is the heart of the play and a justified fear of the war is personified in his madness. Other notable characters are the haughty Mrs. Rafi (a commanding Delphi Harrington) whose purpose is to deride the townspeople into “behavior that is an example to the town”, the eloquent drunk Evens (Gregory Salata), the dumb brute Hollarcut (a sweet Jamie Bennett) and the overly-fraught and overly-weak Jessica Tilehouse (Nora Chester).

While the visibility of the “inactive” actors in a given scene leaves something to be desired and the English dialects (Deborah Hecht) of the cast are not uniform, this 2 hour and 15-minute production is well worth the $20 admission price. The Sea is perceptive, introspective and lends optimism to those that find its observations germane to current times.

Through May 12th. Beckett Theatre410 West 42nd StreetNew York, NY 10036 Tickets: 212-279-4200 or $20

No comments: