Though Edward Albee’s “Seascape” is a Pulitzer Prize winning play (1975) it is nowhere near as well known as his most popular classic, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf.” The latter has had numerous acclaimed revivals over the years, but “Seascape” has only been revived once on Broadway (2005). While the surreal comic drama is not as famous as some of Albee’s other works, the New Village Arts Theatre Production is first rate.
Nancy (Dana Case) and Charlie (Jack Missett) are a long-term married couple about to retire, who are visiting sand dunes is an unspecified location. Nancy wants to live life by exploring different beaches, but Charlie’s desire is to just relax and do nothing. This conflict leads to the two of them getting into major arguments that threaten their relationship. The day gets crazier after Nancy and Charlie meet two human-size talking lizards, Leslie (Justin Lang) and Sarah (Amanda Morrow), who wish to change their habitat to land.
Albee’s dialogue is frequently clever with verbal fights that are sometimes tense, but often very funny. The writing is occasionally repetitive and this brilliantly represents the fact that the major characters are afraid to make progress in their lives.
As Nancy, Case delivers her lines in a very realistic manner. At times, the actress seems like she is creating Albee’s prose on the spot as opposed to reading scripted words.
Missett portrays Charlie as a very cranky and stubborn husband who ignores the signs that his wife is becoming less patient with his attitude. Missett’s hilarious timing keeps the idiosyncratic coot from being an unlikeable brute.
With his stand out physical lizard-like movements as well as his brave commitment, Lang is wonderfully offbeat every second he is onstage. He arguably has the biggest arc, due to a decision made in the emotionally powerful resolution.
Morrow shines as well as Leslie’s mate, Sarah. She talks in a child like voice and has an upbeat attitude when conveying Sarah’s love of learning about humans.
Not only are the performers convincing as the lizards, their unforgettable physical appearances are thanks to Shirley Pierson’s costume design. With a quick glance, Leslie and Sarah appear like sleestaks from “Land of the Lost;” however, the reptiles actually have a unique look with plenty of memorable details.
Kristianne Kurner’s scenic design results in one of the most accurate depictions of a beach I have ever seen in a show. Comical touches including fake clouds, enhance the scenery, which includes real sand and authentic props; and sets the tone for the odd events to follow.
Though “Seascape” has a more clear structure than some of Albee’s early theatre of the absurd plays, there can still be a lot of debate about the symbolism included throughout the piece. The audience will never know if Leslie and Sarah are real, or if the creatures are instead metaphorical representations of Nancy and Charlie. Regardless, humorous and compelling, “Seascape” is a smart reflection of a marriage in crisis. In spite of the fact that this piece might be too quirky for some, it is an undeniably witty story from an iconic playwright.
[box] Seascape plays at New Village Arts Theatre Sundays at 2, Thursdays at 8, Fridays at 8, and Saturdays at 3 and 8. Tickets are $22-$36 and may be purchased by calling the box office or online via the company’s website (see below for details). The theatre is located adjacent to the Carlsbad Coaster station. Free parking is available in the station lot.