By Tracy Doyle
This past weekend the Milwaukee Rep opened their production of Seascape. Edward Albee’s (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf and The Goat, or Who is Sylvia) 1975 drama is as engaging and timeless as ever. The play opens with a sixty-something couple on the beach, on vacation. They have lived a wonderful life together; children, successful careers, enough money to go off to the south of wherever for a week or two. The couple, Charlie and Nancy, played skillfully by James Pickering and Linda Stephens, spend most of the late afternoon discussing what they want next in life. Charlie feels he has “earned a rest”, whereas Nancy wants to travel the world, trotting from beach to beach, experiencing all life has to offer. The topics of discussion range from suspected infidelities to underwater fantasies to roaring jet planes impeding all conversation.
As the action progresses it becomes clear that Charlie is more than happy to fade away into nothing and Nancy wants them both to live life to its fullest. Throughout these exchanges, the relationship between Nancy and Charlie seems a little forced. At times, the actors feel more like they are playing caricatures of a long-married couple than really being a long-married couple; the connection is just not there. However, late in the first act, a classic Albee turn of events occurs. The twist introduces two new characters, Leslie and Sarah (Mark Corkins and Cristina Panfilio) who aid Charlie in discovering that life needs to be lived, and he admirably steps up to the plate. The chemistry between Corkins and Panfilio is undeniable; the two work together to create an irresistible foil.
This is one production where the set design, costuming, and movement choreography are phenomenal. The sometimes bland stage in the Stiemke Theatre has been immaculately transformed by Bill Clarke into a real-life, although still minimalist, “seascape.” One could almost feel the gentle sun rays warming oneself in the seats and hear the constant whoosh of the ocean waves hitting the shore. Costumes by Rachel Laritz were more than anyone could have asked for, and, in my humble opinion, really made the play.
Albee’s work is always worth seeing, and more often than not, the Rep puts forward productions well worth taking in. This show is no different. Go check it out. Take a little vacation and lose yourself in warm arguments of life and what it means; emotions and relationships. And coupling. Never forget about the coupling.
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