Theater Review: "Seascape" At TheatreWorks New Milford Offers Thurberesque Fable, Another Great Production

NEW MILFORD — In recent months we’ve been approached by attractive young (but not indecently young) women with earnest smiles and degrees in marketing, plying us with free lunches and ballpoint pens in return for allowing them to explain the benefits of their employers — the such and such Continuing Care Community which will free us from the drudgery of shoveling and mowing, while bestowing on us all the joys of spacious floor plans, indoor pools with water aerobics, fine dining and on site medical staff…

Well it’s part of the zeitgeist these days: modern medicine and changing demographics have created a growing number of retirees who hope to live happily — if not ever after, at least for a good long time — and so sensing a need, these facilities have sprung up, promising that until its finally time to actually sail into the sunset, your golden years can be like a perpetual Princess Line Cruise (but with ample toilet paper). Be proactive, they urge. Sell your house, sign on the dotted line, and let the festivities begin…

It’s easy to poke fun, but for many people retirement is a critical stage. With the children gone from the nest, and your old job filled by a perfectly competent replacement, your identity is up for grabs. Deciding what to do with yourself can be both invigorating and terrifying. That’s the emotional limbo faced by Charlie and Nancy, an appealing suburban couple enjoying a picnic on a deserted beach, because they can. Charlie has retired. They can do and go anywhere they like — and so begins what is clearly an old pattern of bickering, Edward Albee style. This is the driving force of Seascape, which continues at TheatreWorks New Milford until May 25.

Nancy, masterfully portrayed by Noel Desiato, is chafing at the bit, anxious to get on with new adventures, dreaming of traveling the world to explore beautiful deserted beaches everywhere. Charlie, played with cheerfully serene passive aggression by J. Scott Williams, would prefer to do nothing. After a busy and strenuous corporate career, he just wants to rest. He thinks about holding his breath and sinking down to the ocean floor, where he can just be still and watch the fish swim by.

Their playful quarrel is interrupted by the arrival of Sarah and Leslie, a pair of bright green human-sized lizards who suddenly appear crawling over the sand dune. Panic stricken, Charlie wants a gun or a stick — the primordial male faced with the need to defend his mate. The lizards, however, are equally terrified and confused by these new humans. They too are caught in an evolutionary moment.  As reptiles, crawling out of the sea onto the land for the first time, they are forced to adjust to a strange new environment.

As the two males bluster and posture, the two women begin to make friendly social overtures. The lizards speak English, and have a highly intelligent vocabulary, although they are woefully ignorant about life on shore. Clothing? Airplanes? Child rearing? The lizards understand none of it.

When the females have a conversation about childbearing Nancy confides that she has three children. She explains breastfeeding to a reptile who has no idea what breasts are. Sarah has laid 7,000 eggs, and never given much thought to them after they hatched.

The lizards understand words, but ideas are more difficult. Grudgingly, Charlie explains evolution to them. Leslie and Sarah have come on land because they have changed; they no longer feel like they belong in the water. They discuss the concept of emotions. At first the lizards don’t understand. It is not part of their experience.

But when Charlie asks Sarah if she would be upset if she never saw her husband again, and urges her to think about it, she starts to cry. This makes Leslie angry. Why did you make my wife cry? I want to hit you!

Love, fear, and anger…  for the first time, the lizards are feeling emotions. They are painful, and they would like to retreat back into the comfortable water, but it won’t be the same. They have evolved, on their way to becoming human. And for Charlie and Nancy come the realization that their lives too are in a state of flux. For them it is the evolution of a marriage. Their traditional roles are changing; but for as long as they are alive they must be prepared to leave the familiar and comfortable, and move along on the road to new challenges.

Director Chesley Plemmons gets wonderfully nuanced performances from his actors, including Desirae Carle as Sarah and James Hipp as Leslie. And Leslie Neilson Bowman has outdone herself in creating amazing, glittering, scaly lizard costumes. Along with an attractive set by Glen Couture and Rich Pettibone, New Milford is offering a fine rendition of this Thurberesque fable about species that pass in the afternoon. The play won Albee a Pulitzer back in 1975 when it opened on Broadway, and, unlike most of the playwright’s work, it is funny and optimistic, as it deals with the transitional stages in life, and the fear and anxiety attendant upon leaving familiar patterns, in order to strike out for something new.

Performances continue to May 25, with curtain on Friday and Saturday at 8 pm. Tickets are $23.

Call 860-350-6863 or visit theatreworks.us for reservations and additional information.

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