Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Seascape with Sharks and Dancer"

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note: entire contents copyright 1998 by Larry Stark

"Seascape with Sharks and Dancer"

by Don Nigro
Directed by M.J. Daly

Scenic Design by The Company
Lighting Design by The Company
Costume Design by The Company
Sound Design by The Company
Stage Manager Kate West

Tracy..........Gail Herendeen
Ben...............Bill Church

Frank Storace may be the luckiest man in Boston theater. Companies of actors are always coming to his school, The Actors' Workshop, and paying him money to rent that intimate little second-floor theaterspace where the stage takes up about as much room as the audience. Anyone who works there knows at the outset they can't possibly make any money in such a house --- not even charging $38.50 for a front-row seat --- so it's a given that these companies are there only out a fierce love of theater that drives performances of nowhere-to-hide honesty. And Frank gets to watch them. This week and next The Baobab Theatre Company (Bill Church, M.J. Daly, Gail Herendeen & Kate West) are doing Don Nigro's searingly human "Seascape with Sharks and Dancer" so perfectly even jaded old Frank must feel proud to be part of it.

This is another man/woman play about the absurd, irrational possibility of love in today's world --- the identical territory Jane Martin explored in "Jack and Jill". But Nigro's "Seascape" is as naturalistic as Martin's is abstract, and so his people are as odd and weirdly unique as hers are believably typical.

What Nigro's people say to one another is only tangentially related to what is really true or even what they really mean. It's set in a seaside cabin on Cape Cod. It's owner is a librarian who insists he's a writer because he's writing a novel. The naked woman he has fished from the surf insists she wasn't drowning, just dancing in the sea. Her approach to life is aggressively defensive. She says exactly what she doesn't mean, doing everything she can think of to keep away the soothing love she desperately needs. His approach is a patient, passive acceptance that doggedly hopes she will choose life over suicide, choose him over emptiness. He refuses to push for what he wants, while she relentlessly pushes it away. Only in the "made-up" stories they tell one another are they directly honest. This is a story told totally in its subtexts.

The Baobab Theatre Company is thoroughly professional in everything they do. Their lovely program alone (the work of Loriann Murray) bespeaks a spare, eloquent excellence that infuses all their work on this show, each member of the company doing the work, and everyone involved in helping one another do it. It would be easy to believe that Gail Herendeen and Bill Church were making up Don Nigro's words as they went along, considering that the hovering presence of producer/stage manager Kate West is more apparent than a sort of subtextual influence of director M.J. Daly.

But part of the bittersweet joy of seeing this play in this intimate house is the fact that all these gifted theatrical professionals have lived with Don Nigro's witty, world-aware, fearful, needful people long enough and deeply enough through rehearsals to allow the audience in that room to live, for a couple hours, with them. And not only Frank Storace got to see them. So did I.

Thank you Frank. Thank you Baobab.


"Seascape with Sharks and Dancer" (till 30 May)
actors' Workshop, 40 Boylston Street, BOSTON

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide