Seascape, the final production of the University of Iowa's Summer Rep season (called "Making Waves: An Edward Albee Festival"), is an interesting variation on a well-worn theme of the playwright: introspection.
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? dealt with issues of lost hope and idealism; A Delicate Balance brought us a cold look at the meaning of relationships and regret; and Seascape now provides us with a portrayal of the dangers of comfort and stagnation.
Although the three plays have that same introspective feel, Seascape is a far more optimistic play than the others. That point alone makes this shorter play stand out, and Iowa's production, although it is tiresome at times, is worth seeing.
The main characters of this play are the standard Albee older married couple, who have come to a point in their marriage where dissatisfaction is seeping through the shiny veneer of comfort. Charlie (Eric Forsythe) is a sad older man who just demands rest at the end of his life, while his wife Nancy (Judith Keefe) is not so ready to let her remaining life slip by unnoticed. There is this delicate balance, never tampered with, between the optimism of Nancy and the fatalism of Charlie. The complacency and apathy of this couple is dramatically contrasted with the other couple in this play.
It was not enough for Albee to make this couple young and in love, full of exuberance and curiosity; he had to take it a step further, making this couple find everything about life new and interesting by the very nature of their foreignness. Albee decided that Sarah (Jennifer E. Rives) and Leslie (Lee Simon) had to be nonhuman - they are a lizard couple, come up from the sea to grow and develop more. These two couples learn to appreciate and cherish the new and to adopt an attitude of excitement at the wonders of life. It ends on a very optimistic note, unlike the other plays presented in this season.
Although characters such as Charlie have been seen before (George in Woolf and Tobias in Balance), Forsythe still brings wonderful acting to the table. There is an assurance in his portrayal of Charlie that, although not new, makes it enjoyable. Keefe's Nancy started out rocky, with too much exuberance, but mellowed out, and I grew to enjoy the character. Nancy's optimism and ebullience were new traits for an Albee character, as obviously are the traits of lizards.
Lee Simon and Jennifer E. Rives were in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and I did not find their performances exemplary. But their depictions of cautious but curious lizards were more on-target. Their steps were deliberate and awkward, and they even stuck out their tongues from time to time. Simon and Rives were not afraid to look silly, ensuring very likable characters.
The set was simple and to the point, but because this play is on a beach, it is very appropriate. The sound effects were good, although not handled very well - it isn't convincing to hear a screaming plane just stop.
And even though this play had a different tone than its predecessors in this season, Seascape is not as engaging. That would have to be one of the pitfalls of seeing several plays by the same playwright in a short time period - even the lessons on the dangers of comfort become familiar and comfortable. But if you have not seen the other plays in this season, this will be sure to please.