Point Park Conservatory Theatre Company’s production of The Sea, a 1973 work by Edward Bond, is a study in strange dichotomies. It’s neither comedy nor tragedy, realistic nor surreal, modern nor Edwardian, but rather, a transposition of each such duality, just when you think it’s nailing itself down. This is often the case with Bond, the radical British playwright.
The action is based in a 1907 English coastal village and, as with many plays that start with a tremendous storm, never coalesces into a tidy plot. Director David Cabot does an admirable job of trying to take us into the lives of this small, dysfunctional community, but we get the impression he has to constantly fight Bond for control of the stage. Fortunately he has help from Johnmichael Bohach’s artful set, which is a leviathan stuffed into the tiny Studio Theatre, and feels like your first dorm room after you put in the bed and desk. There isn’t much space for the audience, so expect to get a little wet and sandy if you sit up front.
In keeping with the motif of synchronicity, Bohach builds two sets into one, so we have the sense of being both inside various locations, and outside on the beach at the same time. Steve Shapiro’s sound and Carrie Yacono’s lighting mystically evoke the sea air in an almost olfactory way.
Gabe DeRose stumbles into the drama looking like a young Richard Dreyfus from the set of Jaws. As the town drunk, Evens, he maintains a persuasive, near-cockney accent, and delivers his lines with a smirking vibrancy.
Emma Mercier, as the manipulative Mrs. Rafi, has the heaviest role, and embodies this powerful form of Edwardian femininity with a dash of the great Margaret Dumont. Nikky Robinson has one of the toughest challenges as Hatch the shopkeeper, who convincingly goes insane from a weird — and anachronistic — fear of alien invasions.
Perhaps stranger, Evens’ “rats on stars” speech is eerily similar to the poem “Rats Live on No Evil Star,” published by Anne Sexton in 1974. For the uninitiated, here’s a wonderful chance to experience the trippy theater of the 1970s.