Directed by Jonathan Berry
Produced by Theatre Mir
At Theater Wit, Chicago
Wonderfully staged and expertly acted black comedy, The Sea, is smooth sailing!
Director Jonathan Berry’s five year passion for Edward Bond’s 1973 black comedy, The Sea, became a production as Theatre Mir mounted the work. This brilliantly staged comedy has hints of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The Sea portrays a society gripped by fear- of change, of the unknown, and of other people- and explores how these fears can grow to both comic and tragic ends.
It is 1907 in East Anglia, England in a seaside town. The play opens with a wild storm (a tempest really) that causes the drowning of a young villager and washes a stranger ashore. We see Willy (Brett Schneider) screaming for help while a drunk staggers about and a coast guarder only cures the ship wrecked survivor.
It seems that Hatch (Max Lesser) is both the coast guarder and the town draper. His fear of the unknown is full fledged paranoia. He believes that Willy is more than a friend of the drowned sailor- actually an invader from outer space.
We see the cast of colorful characters led by the grand dame of the village, Mrs. Rafi (an excellent performance from Rachel Slavick) as she hassles Hatch while buying fabric. The two begin a battle of wills concerning the sea tragedy and Willy’s status. Mrs Rafi champions Willy while Hatch and his small band of cohorts believe he my be an alien. Evens (Patrick Blashill), a drunk , is the town’s philosopher and expert at the sea’s ways. He predicts where the drowned body will wash ashore.
Filled with a cast of well played zanies, The Sea unfolds as part mystery, part black comedy, and part tragedy. This most engaging play quickly gets us on board and keeps us guessing, laughing and wondering what will happen next. Director Jonathan Berry has cast a wonderful group of players led by the fabulous Rachel Slavick as the obnoxious and demanding village grand dame, Mrs Rafi. Max Lesser plays Hatch with zestful aplomb while Brett Schneider presents Willy as a most empathetic fellow. Patrick Blashill has the philosopher/drunk Evens down pat. Patrice Egleston as Mrs. Tilehouse and Joe Sherman as the Vicar also were excellent.
With giving away too much, let me say that The Sea is a cleverly written and expertly performed whimsical yet dark comedy that works on several levels. The quirkiness underscores the fear of the unknown, the fear of change, and the fear of those different from us that the villagers struggle with. Will Hatch or Mrs. Rafi win out? Will the classes ever work together and who is the real leader of the village? See this wonderfully funny and poignant play as a cautionary tale of manipulation that reminds me of the Republican Presidential Primary.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: March 23, 2012
For more info checkout The Sea page at theatreinchicago.com
At Theatre Wit, 1229 W. Belmont, Chicago, IL, www.theaterwit.org, call 773-975-8150m tickets $25 with $18 Senior/Student tickets, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Saturdays & Sundays at 3:30 pm, running time is 2 hours with intermission, through April 15, 2012