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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Edward Albee’s Seascape
On New Year’s Day R and I went to see Edward Albee’s Seascape (I wonder which is nicer, the Pulitzers, the Tonys, or having your name before the play title on the Playbill) at the Booth Theater.

My motivations for seeing the play were a bit iffy—a process-of-elimination (I’ve seen that, I won’t be able to get into that; I can’t be bothered to go down there, and this one’s run ends next Sunday). So (join in with me please …) my expectations were pretty low, and thus I had a wonderful time.

This is the play where a seventysomething couple, Nancy and George (played in this production by Frances “Bunny” Sternhagen and George Grizzard), are on a beach, lovingly bickering about their future, when two huge lizards, Sarah and Leslie (Elizabeth Marvel and Frederick Weller, who, I learned from the program has achieved the Law & Order trifecta—in so many ways, it’s great that Trial by Jury’s run was so short, since it makes the four-peat a real achievement) crawl over the dunes.

I think I may only have seen The Zoo Story and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf from Albee’s big bag of plays, but even with those two in my head, I shouldn’t have been surprised by the wit of the dialogue. Sternhagen was great, but Grizzard stood out because he was the nay-sayer—it’s easy for Nancy to seem interesting, she’s adventurous and creative; George is a former depressive who just wants to sit in the sun doing crosswords, but the actor made it work. George wasn’t a bore or a whiner, he was a tired realist. And once the lizards appeared, George reckoned the liver-paste sandwiches had done them in, and anyone who blames the liver paste is by definition sympathetic. Casting actors who are themselves in their 70s really made a difference—I am way too nervous about actors and sets generally (especially when large and not terribly mobile opera singers are scrambling on steeply banked sets), but I really worried for their hips every time someone got a foot tangled on the unruly corner of the beach blanket.

And talking lizards? Amazingly un-gimmicky. The focus was on their reactions to the newness of what the humans had to tell them about the world, not on the fact that they were talking lizards.

In these days when evolution is embattled (in schools and textbooks at least), the final images of Nancy and George imploring Sarah and Leslie not to give into to their instinctual desire to return to the sea was especially moving.

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