Theater review by Helen Shaw
There are worse things than a play going wrong—of course there are. But that perspective may be hard to remember during Singing Beach. In just the first few seconds, your spine goes icy with dread: The set’s “beach” is muslin tacked haphazardly thither and yon, and there are tube columns out of some high school Oresteia, which are meant to suggest smokestacks on an ocean liner (which they do not). Shudder.
The often great Tina Howe has written a heartbroken work about aging: Merrie (Erin Beirnard) and her kids face a hurricane on the very day they want to put poor, stricken Grampa in a home. But heartbroken isn’t the same as heartbreaking. Awkward icebergs of exposition slam through the dialogue. “He’s lost the power of speech, in case you haven’t noticed,” says Owen (John P. Keller), Merrie’s husband, slimily referring to his wife’s own father. (Thanks, Owen; she knows.) Nearly the entire story is told through the perspective of Merrie’s precocious daughter Piper (Elodie Lucinda Morss), whose dream sequences on a fantasy USS Pegasus culminate in a horrifying “talent show” that climaxes—I swear this is true—with Piper’s reenactment of a child suicide from a TV show. No play should place such a terrible burden on a 10-year-old performer, and Ari Laura Kreith’s fumbling production offers no help. Let the summer tide rise and fall, and may it take this Beach out with it.
HERE (). By Tina Howe. Directed by Ari Laura Kreith. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr 15mins. No intermission. Through Aug 12.