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Theater review: Albee's ‘Seascape’ at Theatre West

September 29, 2011 |  2:00 pm

Seascape photo 3
It’s a classic Edward Albee setup: A mature husband and wife grappling with marital tensions find themselves playing hosts to an inexperienced couple from out of town. This may not be the Albee play you’re expecting, though — especially when the visitors turn out to be a pair of sentient sea lizards.

Written in 1975, Albee’s “Seascape” explores some of the playwright’s signature themes in an unusually whimsical mode, albeit with typically sharp-edged wit and intelligence — qualities skillfully captured in Charlie Mount’s enjoyable, handsomely staged revival for Theatre West.

As the lizards migrating to a new life ashore, Paul Gunning and Kristin Wiegand consistently delight with quirky inflections and deft physical comedy (Gunning also created their intricate costumes and makeup). Though they speak perfect English, the lizards’ bewilderment at human customs, concepts and emotions combines goofy outsiders’ logic and an underlying poignancy of alienation. Driven from their underwater home by an existential sense that they no longer belong, their deep uncertainty and ambivalence is palpable.

The picnicking humans they encounter face a turning point of their own. Feisty Nancy (Arden Teresa Lewis) wants to spend their retirement years exploring things they never had a chance to do, while her depressive husband Charlie (Alan Schack) would rather shut down and do nothing. Their initial introspective monologues miss some of the text’s playful elements, but the production’s delivery and pacing hit their stride with the lizards’ arrival toward the end of the first act.

Stability is an illusion, Albee’s wry, charming and surprisingly hopeful fable concludes, but while evolutionary change may be a scary prospect, it also brings unexpected potential for greater understanding and connectedness.

–- Philip Brandes

“Seascape,” Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends Oct. 16. $22 and $25. (323) 851-7977 or Running time: 2 hours.

Photo: From left, Kristin Wiegand, Paul Gunning, Alan Schack and Arden Teresa Lewis. Credit: Thomas Mikusz