The Sea at Theatre Mir | Theater review

Edward Bond’s curious fable is awash in competing moods.

Photograph: Adam Orton
The Sea at Theatre Mir

“People are cruel and boring and obsessed,” the imperious Mrs. Rafi (Rachel Slavick) tells Willy (Brett Schneider) early in Edward Bond’s 1973 work. Willy has washed up on shore following a violent storm; his friend and shipmate, who was to be married to Mrs. Rafi’s niece, Rose (Baize Buzan), has seemingly drowned. Some of the townspeople, particularly the unhinged draper Hatch (Max Lesser), eye the stranger with suspicion. Rafi, who holds an iron grip on the town’s patrician society, dismisses them with a wave of her hand, but her latest domineering affront to Hatch looks set to shake things up.

Bond’s odd little fable spans drawing-room comedy, splashes of The Tempest and even a bit of sci-fi: Hatch is certain the town is being invaded by space aliens, with Willy as their advance scout. That thread, in which Hatch has persuaded a gang of lower-class types to undermine the coast guard lest the arriving aliens come for their jobs, has an unfortunate resonance amid an increasingly ridiculous political season. But it sits uncomfortably alongside Wildean scenes of Mrs. Rafi and her minions clumsily rehearsing a community-theater performance of Orpheus and Eurydice, or the growing attraction between the grieving Willy and Rose. Though Jonathan Berry’s handsome production features fine performances, particularly Lesser as the raving Hatch and Schneider and Buzan as the mourning young lovers, the director can’t quite reconcile the competing tones.

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