Theater Review

Theater Review: Funny 'Seascape' delicately balances mundane and absurd

CorrespondentJanuary 6, 2014 

  • Details

    What: “Seascape,” by Edward Albee, presented by South Stream Productions

    Where: Common Ground Theatre, 4815B Hillsborough Road, Durham

    When: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 9-11 and 16-18; 3 p.m. Jan. 12 and 19

    Cost: $12-$16

    Info: 919-417-2477 or

Edward Albee’s 1975 “Seascape” is a trenchant look at the dynamics of long-term couples as well as humankind’s continued development. This Pulitzer Prize-winning script is warmer, funnier and less acerbic than Albee’s norm, but its delicate balance of the mundane and the absurd still needs astute direction and a strong cast. South Stream Productions provides both. Its accessible, sympathetic staging should have audiences singing, “Who’s afraid of Edward Albee?” all the way home.

The play’s first act finds long-married Nancy and Charlie picnicking on the beach, each contemplating what’s to come in their retirement years. Nancy wants adventure and constant change, but Charlie just wants to relax and rest quietly in one spot. Nancy tries to get Charlie to see things her way, first with teasing, then with logic and finally with insult, to no avail.

Everything changes at the end of the first act when two giant sea lizards suddenly appear. The second act turns into an amusing satire in which the human couple tries to educate the lizard couple (they happen to speak English) about life above water. Conversely, the reptilian pair, Sarah and Leslie, try to understand such things as caring for children (theirs just float away) and what being “decent” means (they don’t understand clothing). The play has knee-slapping humor and forehead-smacking insight, both signaling that we should never stop seeking to understand and experience our world.

Director Brook North confidently brings out the script’s many nuances and yet keeps the pacing tight, fully utilizing Todd Houseknecht’s impressive sand-dune setting. Julie Oliver gives Nancy great compassion in her attempts to keep Charlie from giving up on life, making her a character the audience avidly roots for. John Honeycutt plays Charlie’s crusty irritations well and is moving as he recounts Charlie’s fantasies of living underwater.

Ryan Brock’s Leslie becomes hilariously suspicious and feisty as he confronts the differences of land life. Samantha Corey’s Sarah is dutifully subservient but more openly curious; her heart-rending discovery of what love means is the show’s emotional center. Shannon Clark’s lizard costumes are marvelously creative, a major element in the show’s success.

On the strength of “Seascape,” only the second show by this young company, area audiences can anticipate more theatrical riches from such knowing hands.


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