Sunday, February 16, 2020

A Body of Water (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

The Actors' Coop offers something special in their current production of A Body of Water by Lee Blessing.

Now, the play's premise is intriguing, and may remind you of an episode of the classic The Twilight Zone.  A man and woman, both middle-aged, wake up next to one another, in bed and quite naked.  But neither has any idea who the other person might be.  Nor where they are.  Nor does either one recall their own name, profession, home--well, anything.  All attempts to find clues prove tantalizing at best, more often utterly fruitless.

So who are they?  How did they come to be here?  The view in this isolated and quite lovely home proves spectacular--including a winding body of water which seems (they aren't quite sure) to surround them on all four sides.

When a young woman named Wren (Ivy Beech) arrives, one might think answers would be soon forthcoming.  A few even are!  The man learns his name is Moss (Bruce Ladd), and that he's a judge.  The woman, Avis (Treva Tegtmeier), is his wife and runs a charity. 

Yet who is Wren herself?  She claims to be their daughter.  At times.  Then again, she also claims to be their defense attorney, trying to jog their memory so their trial for the murder of their real daughter Robin may begin.  Worse, in this scenario Wren thinks them guilty.

Or--as she also claims--was that her cruel game, played out of boredom from having to watch over two amnesiacs year after year, who forget everything every single day?  It seems believable--as to be fair is the claim she sometimes pretends to be their daughter, for the sake of peace as well as hoping to jog their memories?

We don't know.  In truth, we never know.  How could we?

This play and production begins with a fair amount of wit, even humor.  The humor remains almost to the very end, not least because what else can one do under the circumstances but try to make light of it, to laugh rather than cry in existential terror?  No doubt jokes and laughter will rear their heads again after we leave these character to their...fate?  Punishment?  Bad luck?  Something else?

One obvious factor, given the premise, is for we the audience to come up with some kind of answer.  Blessing firmly inserts doubt into any such we might come up with.  Are the couple, for example, in Hell?  One character actually asks this question, and of course what kind of answer might they receive?  Nothing they could believe, when you think on it.  Nor anything they will remember.

Worse, their sense of reality becomes increasingly fluid, until neither Moss nor Avis seem to be able to hold on to anything as real. 

And here, the fine cast and director Nan McNamara really make the play shine. Because they might so easily have gone through the motions, played everything up for effect, maybe hinted at some mutually agreed upon solution to this situation.  Instead, they dove into the horror.  Not merely the rawness of the situation in which they find themselves, re-living again and again the fact of their seeming amnesia while trying so many different ways to cope.  No, there's a more subtle horror.  Quite simply, they lack the personal resources to cope.  This is too much for them.

Well, it would be for must of us I think.  But Blessing has changed the play to make their situation much more stark, far more disturbing.  Without revealing the details (despite the warning above), things happen.  Or seem to happen.  And inspire someone to ask that question I mentioned before.

"Are we in Hell?"  Which brings up another question for us all--how would we know? 

A Body of Water plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2:30pm, with a Saturday matinee at 2:30pm on February 22.  Closing is March 15, 2020.  Performances are at the Crossley Theatre, 1760 North Gower (one block north of Hollywood Blvd.).

No comments: