Review: ‘Seascape’ tells provocative tale of marriage, change and lizards
Alee Spadoni and Jack Hickey in "Seascape." | Photo by Johnny Knight
Oak Park Festival Theatre, Madison Street Studio Theatre, 1010 Madison St., Oak Park
8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; 3 p.m. Sundays, through April 21
$25; $20 seniors; $15 students
(708) 445-4440 or visit www. oakparkfestival.com
Updated: March 20, 2013 12:50PM
The difference between “have had” and “are having” isn’t just a matter of words. It’s a matter of thinking.
So retorts Nancy to her husband Charlie, after he muses that they’ve had a good life. She doesn’t want to live in the past tense, Nancy exclaims. Nor does she hold with Charlie’s assertion that after all those years of raising children and working, they’ve earned “a little rest.” For Nancy, they’ve “earned a little life.”
Negotiating the difference between those extremes — retiring for a long nap or living to the active hilt — lies at the core of “Seascape,” Edward Albee’s strange, comedic and thought-provoking tale of a seaside encounter between a couple of retirees and a couple of giant, evolving amphibians.
Like Albee’s seminal “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” “Seascape” focuses on two couples, an older, long-married pair (Charlie and Nancy) and a younger, impressionable duo (the creatures Leslie and Sarah.) On the surface, “Seascape” sounds a bit like a half-baked sci-fi flick. It is anything but.
As it turns out, both couples are dealing with similarly provocative issues and both have something to learn from each other. It just so happens that half the quartet here is scaly, green and four-legged.
Directed by Stephan Shaw and featuring Jack Hickey (Charlie), Mary Michell (Nancy), Alee Spadoni (Sarah) and Dan Toot (Leslie), Oak Park Festival Theatre’s production of “Seascape” is at one funny and poignant, an able portrait of two marriages in flux and a deft examination of the twin lures of change and stasis.
Leslie and Sarah don’t show up until the end of Act I; prior to that, Nancy and Charlie create a picture of midlife marriage at a turning point. Charlie is content to rest, basking in a conflict-free, non-eventful existence that he feels is his due after years of work. Nancy is keen to see the beaches of the world, a would-be explorer of new worlds.
Hickey and Michell have a natural, sometimes pointed rapport, going at each other with the familiarity, impatience and honesty of people who have been together for decades. Even as they spar over choices — rest or live? — there seems to be genuine love between them, the kind of emotion that’s deeply rooted in a foundation of time and affection.
Leslie and Sarah are dealing with their own marital issues. Intelligent and mobile, they no longer fit in with the inhabitants of the deep. But they aren’t convinced that life on land is their best option as they approach their evolution with a mix of fear and excitement.
Both Spadoni and Toot channel their inner lizards, moving with spider-like grace as they slither and scuttle across the stage, radiating a mixture of confusion and wonder as they encounter the strange inhabitants of a strange new world.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning drama plays out on Andrew Hildner’s lovely set of sand dunes and driftwood crafted. As for the job make-up designer Kristin Hill does in transforming Spadoni and Toot into creatures of the deep slowly mutating toward dry land, it’s downright chameleonic.