Seascape by Edward Albee at Theatre West

Edward Albee’s “Seascape” unfolds at a beachside picnic. Nancy is thrilled and looking forward to retirement along with her husband. Oh, the places they’ll go – a couple of beach bums living along the famous coasts the world has to offer.

There is just one tiny obstacle: Charlie, her husband, does not want to travel. In fact, he doesn’t want to do anything with his life after retirement. This, of course, does not sit well with Nancy and so we’re thrust right into familiar territory – one that only Edward Albee can guide us through, albeit, with a bit more sense of humor than in most of his previous plays. There’s talk of infidelity, mortality, the roles of a husband and wife, and sex. In other words, we’re experiencing nothing new about the relationships between human beings.

That is, until they meet Leslie and Sarah. After an initial period of apprehension between the two couples, they settle into one another and soon learn that both share similar experiences. They compare notes, so to speak, — How many children do you have? etc. — Nancy sees them as a reflection of their younger selves. If not for the fact that Leslie and Sarah are human-sized lizards, this would be beach blanket version of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

 

“Seascape” has as much to do with Darwin’s interpretation of evolution as it does with the evolution of relationships, human or otherwise. Theatre West’s production handles these major themes with complete understanding, beginning with a dune set (created by Jeff G. Rack.) There are no signs of human habitation here, other than what Nancy and Charlie bring in their picnic basket. It is as primordial as Albee’s metaphor: a stage set for primordial goop to slither onto the shore and begin the process of evolution right before the audience’s eyes.

Occasionally, we’re reminded that this is indeed set in modern times, cleverly suggested by Yancey Dunham’s lighting design and Charlie Mount’s sound design. Mount, who also helms the production’s direction, takes an organic approach, keeping it natural and unobtrusive, allowing the actors to play out the physicality.

Paul Gunning and Kristin Wiegand are convincing lizards adorned in Gunning’s fantastic costumes and makeup. Still, their humanity – if that is indeed the correct word to use here – shines through, never delving into parody. Arden Teresa Lewis’ Nancy adds a touch of regret to her character while still brimming with hope, while Alan Schack’s Charlie plays off his complacency with dry wit.

It is not often that Albee’s Pulitzer Prize winning play gets such a near-flawless production mounted in the Southland. All the pieces fit together, making this an enjoyable treat.

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About Obed Medina
Obed received his BA in Creative Writing from the University of California at Riverside. He has freelanced and volunteered at various theatre companies in Los Angeles since 2002. He launched his own workshop theatre company in 2008 and has produced six original one-act plays and one Off-Broadway hit. Currently, he is living in Ashland, Oregon working on his writing and founder of Collaborative Theatre Project.

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