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Volcano Productions Debuts with Seascape at the KiMo

By Steven Robert Allen

AUGUST 10, 1998:  Just about everything comes from the ocean. All of life. Hope and terror. Plankton and rusty cans. Fish with legs. In Seascape, Edward Albee's 1975 Pulitzer Prize-winning play, now being performed at the KiMo, it's a friendly pair of amphibious, humanoid, English-speaking lizards named Leslie and Sarah that emerges from the waves.

The audience, in this case, is the ocean. During the first act we peer through salty eyes at a middle-aged couple named Nancy and Charlie relaxing on our shore. One paints while the other sleeps. One imagines how the remainder of her life's adventure will progress, while the other dreams of a long, deserved rest slowly fading into death.

Each feels a bond to the ocean that hums before them with a low murmur of surf, occasionally chuckling at the couple's humorous chat. Nancy wants to travel the world's oceans, to move from seascape to seascape. She wants to live a complete existence in the time she has left. Charlie, on the other hand, has become content with the life that's behind him. As a young boy, he dreamed of having gills and living at the bottom of the ocean. Now he's become scared of the risks required to experience new things.

When the lizards arrive, slithering out of us, the human couple is faced with scaly reflections of themselves. From Nancy and Charlie's perspective, these creatures cling to lower rungs on the ladder of evolution. These lizards don't know about love. They're unaware of their mortality. They've never even heard of such things as tangerines or string quartets. Still, they speak almost perfect English, so the two couples are able to strike up a conversation.

Albee's hilarious lightning dialogue examines what it means to evolve, as a species and as an individual. Seascape asks whether the quest to become something more than what we are is a good thing, and the final response at the end of the play is necessarily as complicated as it is perfect.

This inaugural gig of Joe Feldman's Volcano Productions pulls off Albee's theatrical eccentricities with admirable grace. The set is simple but effective, and Jacqueline Reid and William Sterchi do well as the conflicted humans.

The big prize, though, goes to the reptiles. Larry Orr as Leslie, the male lizard, and Melissa Stone as Sarah certainly wear daring lizard suits, but the reason they're such compelling characters is that in the end, they are the ones who exhibit the most profoundly human traits.

The power of Seascape is that is shows us that swirling oceanic pool of humanity, that we can be the beginning of something meaningful and heroic. To fully engage in life by slithering out of familiar, comforting habitats--even though it's often terrifying and plagued with considerable risk--is ultimately the only action truly worthy of our efforts.

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