June 23, 2008
Allow Yourself to Be Swept Away by By the Sea, By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sea Presented by Plays and Players Theatre in Philadelphia, PA
Theater: Plays and Players
Show: By the Sea, By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sea
Opened: June 20, 2008
Seen: June 22, 2008
Submitted: June 23, 2008
Reviewer: Florence Mickens
“By the Sea, By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sea” gives the audience a day at the beach. The grouping of three one-act plays entitled, Dawn, Day and Dusk literally spans a day at the beach. Each act brings new characters and a new situation to our beach. The three playwrights, Joe Pintauro, Lanford Wilson and Terrence McNally, have created very different three-character tales. That the tiny ensemble manages to make near instantaneous transformations from one play to the next, particularly given the intimate setting, is clear proof of their skill. Angela Carolfi, Bill Egan, and Janine White all seem to move from one character and circumstance to the next with the ease of turning a page. These impressive performers are given very little in the way of transitions between the stories and there is no intermission at all. A quick costume change takes us from Dawn to Day to Dusk.
Act one opens at a dark shoreline. Soon we meet Pat, Veronica and Quentin awaiting the “Dawn”. The three have come at dawn to make their good-byes. Veronica pushes and pulls her brother and his wife through a string of long-buried memories and never-forgotten slights. The three characters repel and attract one another in interesting and compelling ways. Playwright, Joe Pintauro’s work reminds us of how complex and exquisite family ties can be.
At the start of act two Bill Egan’s Ace shows a brightness and humor that makes us warm to him immediately. It isn’t long before construction worker Ace’s lunchtime solitude is broken by a lovely and welcome young woman, Macy (Angela Carolfi). Interestingly both actors quickly and beautifully establish these characters as whole and distinct from their roles of the first act. And, we never doubt them. The characters in Lanford Wilson’s “Day” are each funny and sad and smart, by turns and all at once. None more so than Janine White’s Bill. In this brief work Wilson explores honor, duty and the import of our choices.
“Dusk” closes the show. Despite the small space and nearness of the audience, the intelligent production manages to convince us that two people are jogging on our beach. We soon learn that Dana, Willy and Marsha have each come to the beach to be alone. Or have they? Terrence McNally plays with our assumptions about who these people are and what they think they have to offer each other.
The production team has decided on a creative bit of staging that takes the audience to the edge of the beach. In this snug Lance Moore design audience members share the stage with the actors. Stadium seating risers meet the beach at the very shoreline. This design is both an interesting choice and a challenging one. Those on the front row may find themselves near nose-to-nose with the performers at times. While this might be a little unsettling for the audience members, not one of the actors ever gave any indication of our presence during their strong and at times very active performances.
Theater goers should note that the intimate staging allows for fewer than 50 seats and makes a prompt arrival very important.