Review by Danny Gaisin
The play was written in 1973, but takes place in a British seaside town circa 1907. Like “Seascape”, THE SEA’s setting IS right there – beside and actually in it. A storm; an overturned punt, one survivor and one missing – presumed drowned. The effect on the survivor and the townspeople becomes a microcosm of societies’ strata; inter-involvement; philosophies and especially community. Director Eda Holmes takes the putty and sculpts a fascinating portrait of life.
Photo by David Cooper
Holmes fleshes out each of her characters to such a degree that audiences will find themselves recalling specific acquaintances [or maybe relatives] that mirror the characters on stage. The most impacting is that of Louise Rafi, the town’s doyenne and she’s imperious plus a bully. It takes a Fiona Reid to do her justice; or maybe a Seanna McKenna, if Stratford ever does the play. Reid has a line that cut this scribe through the heart. Her statement about misbehaviour “makes them come to a bad end; like writing for a newspaper”. Ouch! Her monologue near play’s end rationalizing her behavior rings like something some of our present Senators could quote verbatim.
One of her victims is the psychologically frail shopkeeper ‘Willy’ who she drives over the edge. He is played to the hilt by Patrick Galligan who has previously received O.A.R. accolades for his Shaw & Aquarius representations. His Willy’s paranoia’s will evoke a certain “Law & Order SVU” member to a ‘T’. The chemistry between Julia Course & Wade Bogert-O’Brien almost telegraphs how the play will end. The latter portrays the guilt-ridden rescued sailor that bonds with Course whose role is that of the drowned partner’s fiancée. His poignant outcry that “All people matter to each other” is one of The Sea’s more visceral moments.
There is a definite scene-stealer and it is Peter Millard as ‘Evans’, a beachcomber philosopher who is everyman; the avuncular member in all of our families. He may not be wealthy nor academically educated, but he’s the clearest thinking and most practical one around. I can immediately recall about eight or ten people who are or were stereotypically-Evens’es. His metaphysical analogies are as contemporary as today.
Our specific performance had two substituted understudies in support roles. It is a mark of the talents a repertory –style performer possesses that we noticed nary a moment of hesitation or missed cue by the replacements. THE SEA is not a portrait of the best of humanity, but it will leave the audience with a sense of sanguinity about our species. ‘Seaside’ is located at The Courthouse in Niagara OTL.