Encore Michigan

Monster Box explores Edward Albee’s ‘Seascape’

Review April 09, 2017 David Kiley

WATERFORD TWP.—Other than Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, we don’t see very many Edward Albee plays produced in Michigan’s regional professional theaters. Monster Box, though has wheeled a ton of sand into its space to stage Albee’s Pulitzer Price winning Seascape.

Critics and historians have long had trouble pigeon-holing this play into a specific genre. It’s no wonder, but it most definitely has an element of the absurd and allegory.

The premise is that two recent retirees, Charlie (Jim Moll) and Nancy (Shelby Bradley) are on a beach talking about their workless life and how they might manage to enjoy it. Nancy has definite ideas of beach-combing and swimming and finding the splendor of leisure time, nature and loving. Charlie, though, is a bit gruff, buried in a book, and pushes back on all of Nancy’s notions and dreams.

The squabbling not-on-the-same-page couple then spots two large life-size, English speaking lizards, Leslie (Matt Szakal) and Sarah (Kate Hoin) who have decided, alienated in the sea, to become land livers. At first, as you’d expect, Charlie and Nancy are both curious and frightened. And their first instinct is lay down and be submissive, legs up, and hope for the best, almost as if the lizards were bears that the two hoped would just sniff and walk away.

But then as Act 2 opens, Charlie and Nancy, still prone, get into quite the discussion with their green interlopers. There is talk and exploration of sexual function and gender roles, as well as the whole broader theme of adapting to new circumstances. All four are in that boat…on the sand of course.

Moll and Bradley are convincing as a couple trying to figure out “what’s next” for them, and they do fine justice to Albee’s dialogue. Bradley does more acting with her eyes than most stage actors, and she is a pleasure to watch as she tries to push cranky, disaffected Charlie up a hill out of his frequent melancholia. Szakal and Hoin, donned in full lizard suits complete with large tails, both capture the anthropomorphic sense of wonder and ignorance that goes with the characters who have just decided to evolve from water to land, but have no idea what evolution is.

Albee said of his play, “The messages are–Everything is always undergoing mutation in order to survive. It’s the survival of the most adaptable.”

It’s a very talky play, and runs a pretty brisk 90 minutes plus an intermission that almost doesn’t seem necessary. The play was first performed in 1975, and has an eternal quality. It is always set in the present, and the forty-plus years since it had its first run has not grown hair on the script at all. That’s probably why it won The Pulitzer.

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