Two by Sea

Two parallel plays, by Richard Greenberg and Edward Albee, make for a clever but uninvolving night of theater

Paducah Mining Company's production of Richard Greenberg's Life Under Water (directed by Greg Land) and Edward Albee's Finding the Sun (directed by Susannah Martin) makes for a perfectly nice and clever evening of theater, which is fine except that it doesn't go much further than that. The two hourlong pieces are obvious partners with numerous parallels. They both criticize the life of New England WASPs (an easy target), feature society outsiders who ultimately must make desperate decisions, question immoral characters, and take place in the Hamptons. (Interestingly, the company resists double-casting parts.) But the evening relies too heavily on these parallels: On their own the pieces are not very complex. They would be more interesting if we could relate to the characters, but, unfortunately, some actors perform with a hyperawareness of Albee's repetitious and stilted language -- and the directors let them get away with it. We see this inauthentic acting more in Shakespeare plays, and it creates a veneer over the actors that is hard to penetrate, especially if the audience is prejudiced against a character to begin with. For example, in Life Under Water, the attractive Amy-Joy (Renee Racan) disdains her rich uncle, but her equal lack of morals doesn't make her much better. In Finding the Sun, Abigail (Laconia Koerner) is the lonely outsider, but her touching speech about the death of her parents is undercut by her question, "And why do I have to be married to a fairy?" (Koerner is progressing this year, but this play shows her inexperience.) George Killingsworth (as Henden in Sun) escapes this trap, delivering what could have been a throwaway speech about being afraid (yet not really afraid) of death with poignancy and truthfulness, walking right up to the first row and inviting us into his thoughts. Paducah Mining Company, which gave us a wonderfully realized production of Paula Vogel's Hot 'n' Throbbing earlier this season, has attempted (with a sparse set of green and blue lights and curtains, and a sound design of lazy ocean waves) to put these characters in a fishbowl for us to study -- if only we could get past the glass.

 
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