Los Angeles Theater Review: SEASCAPE (Theatre West)

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by Kat Michels on September 20, 2011

in Theater-Los Angeles

AMPHIBIANS MORE EVOLVED THAN HUMANS

Theatre West’s production of Edward Albee’s Seascape is a study in contrasts.  Things either work, and work beautifully, or are muddled and miss the mark, creating an enjoyable but not completely satisfying evening.

Nancy and Charlie are on the verge of retirement.  Their kids are grown and independent, and it is once more just the two of them.  This idea excites Nancy, who wants to travel from beach to beach, meeting new people and experiencing new things.  Charlie wants to relax and have things to stay exactly as they are.  Nancy tries to lure him with past pleasures, but Charlie shoots her down.  The first act paints a picture of a couple that has lost the ability to communicate effectively.

Theatre West presents a Chestnuts Production - SEASCAPE by Edward Albee - Produced and Directed by: Charlie Mount – Los Angeles Theater Review by Kat MichelsEnter Leslie and Sarah:  Two life-sized lizards from the sea that speak English.  However, their vocabulary and experiences are drastically limited, therefore limiting their ability to communicate with humans.  Despite this fact, Leslie and Sarah exist harmoniously by complimenting, protecting, and bolstering each other.  They have left the sea because they no longer feel at home there, and are seeking someplace new.  Although evolved, they have no idea what to make of Nancy and Charlie.  The four of them spend the second act feeling each other out – sometimes literally – and creating a mutual sense of understanding.

Theatre West presents a Chestnuts Production - SEASCAPE by Edward Albee - Produced and Directed by: Charlie Mount – Los Angeles Theater Review by Kat MichelsAs an ensemble, the cast works together beautifully, creating several laugh-out loud moments.  As couples, they’re a bit more disparate.  Paul Gunning as Leslie and Kristin Wiegand as Sarah are outstanding as the lizards.  Their physicality is fantastic, their timing is spot on, and their admiration, respect, and love for each other is clearly identifiable.  Alan Schack as Charlie and Arden Teresa Lewis as Nancy aren’t quite as endearing.  Instead of a husband and wife who have lost the ability to communicate, they come across more as a naively petulant daughter and begrudging curmudgeonly father. Plus, it is difficult to discern any growth or evolution in their acting: they end where they started, unaffected by the company of two life-sized lizards.

Theatre West presents a Chestnuts Production - SEASCAPE by Edward Albee - Produced and Directed by: Charlie Mount – Los Angeles Theater Review by Kat MichelsThe design of the show is equally incongruous.  Jeff G. Rack’s set is gorgeous.  It has great textures, colors, and levels, which director Charlie Mount utilizes to enormous effect with the actors scrambling up and down the rocks.  The lizard costumes, by Paul Gunning, were quite impressive, as they moved well and avoided being cumbersome – despite the long tails.  Even more striking were the details, such as fingernail polish matching the hand coverings and the male lizard’s coloring being brighter than the females, just as would occur in nature.

Theatre West presents a Chestnuts Production - SEASCAPE by Edward Albee - Produced and Directed by: Charlie Mount – Los Angeles Theater Review by Kat MichelsHowever, Yancey Dunham’s lighting design falls short.  The first act is pretty, but in the second act, as the day is coming to a close, in lieu of a sunset and that coveted “magic lighting” that filmmakers wait all day for, it looked as if the lights were simply lowered.  In the same camp, Charlie Mount’s sound design was more jarring than effective, such as the haunting, somber, Native American-esque flute music at play’s end that abruptly switches – without so much as a downbeat in between – to a cheery upbeat “Beyond the Sea” for the curtain call.

In order for Albee’s trademark wit and transcendent writing to shine, we need a company that is up to the task; this hit-and-miss production elucidates why Albee can be perceived as anything from luminous to perplexing.

Kat @ stageandcinema.com

photos by Thomas Mikusz

Seascape
scheduled to end on October 16
for tickets, visit http://www.theatrewest.org

Theatre West presents a Chestnuts Production – SEASCAPE by Edward Albee
– Produced and Directed by: Charlie Mount – Los Angeles Theater Review by Kat Michels

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