SEASCAPE a must see staging by A.C.T.

Caption: Nancy (Ellen McLaughlin) and Charlie (James Carpenter) are greeted by Leslie (Seann Gallagher), a human-sized lizard, in Edward Albee’s Seascape, performing at A.C.T.’s Geary Theater now through February 17, 2019

SEASCAPE: Surreal Comedy by Edward Albee. Directed by Pam MacKinnon. American Conservatory Theater (ACT), 415 Geary St., San Francisco, CA. (415) 749-2228 or www.act-sf.org.

January 23–February 17, 2019

SEASCAPE a must see staging by A.C.T. Rating: ★★★★★

Whereas former Artistic Director of American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) Carey Perloff had a theatrical love affair with Tom Stoppard, Pam MacKinnon newly appointed to that august position informed the Seascape opening night audience of her personal fondness for Edward Albee having directed 11 of his plays. She also won a Tony Award for direction of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. If this were Broadway another Tony Award would be given.

Albee’s constructions of both plays are similar to the extent that there are only two disparate couples who interact. One pair is older and one younger. The vicious interaction between the older couple in Woolf is replaced by civil disagreements between Nancy (Ellen McLauglin) and Charlie (James Carpenter) who have lived a loving life. The young couple has to be seen to be believed since they are humanoid lizards Leslie (Sean Gallagher) and Sarah (Sarah Nina Haydon) arising for the first time from the sea.

The action takes place on a deserted stretch of beach with Charlie taking a nap and Nancy painting a seascape. They are both retired with different ideas of how they should spend retirement. Nancy wishes to travel and spend time being active meeting new people. He is content to just “retire” and do just what he is doing now, “nothing.” Nancy is the most vocal while Charlie remains firm with neither allowing a unanimous decision. The interaction between Charlie and Nancy is confrontational yet without rancor with strong bonds of love surrounding their relationship. Those bonds telegraph an important scene to come. Without warning Leslie and Sarah arrive. End of Act one.

Leslie and Sarah arrive having for the first time crawled out of the ocean. They have been become disenchanted, even disgusted with their life under the sea. Nancy and Charlie are both frightened by the strange beings and do not recognize that Leslie and Sarah are equally frightened of them. Whereas the Lizards speak English they have no idea of the nuances of human customs. Nor are they able to conceptionalize  the meaning of words.  There are many brilliant scenes: One is of simple greeting with a handshake, another is the explanation of “love” and the concept of family. Sarah has given birth to as many of 70,000 eggs and once they are hatched they are at the mercy of the undersea elements. Another vignette involves the concept of marital fidelity.

Birds and their ability to fly are completely alien to the lizards and Charlie’s explanation becomes incomprehensible when airplanes “fly” overhead. All in all the Lizards decide they have had enough of life out of water and are going to return to the sea. Charlies and Nancy attempt to explain the underlying concept evolution and they must “evolve” on land.

As Leslie and Sarah disappear over the sand dune, the curtain comes down and the theatre erupted with a standing ovation.

There is superb interaction between McLaughlin and Carpenter and their “getting to know” Leslie and Sarah offers humor and philosophical understanding. Mackinnon’s directorial conceits are scattered throughout the evening and are terrific additions to the script. Scenic designer David Zinn has draped entire stage as a sand dune with a path leading to the beach. He also designed the fantastic lizard costumes that Gallagher and Hayon invest with amphibian type maneuvers. Sound effects by Brendan Aanes and lighting Isabella Byrd are integral to the seascape setting.

CAST: James Carpenter as ‘Charlie’; Ellen McLaughlin as ‘Nancy,’ Seann Gallagher as ‘Leslie,’; and Sarah Nina Hayon as ‘Sarah.’

CREATIVE TEAM: David Zinn (Scenic and Costume Designer); Isabella Byrd (Lighting Designer), and Brendan Aanes (Sound Designer).

Running time is about two hours with an intermission. This is a must see production.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldim2.com

Caption: Nancy (Ellen McLaughlin) and Charlie (James Carpenter) are greeted by Leslie (Seann Gallagher), a human-sized lizard, in Edward Albee’s Seascape, performing at A.C.T.’s Geary Theater now through February 17, 2019