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THEATER REVIEW: “Seascape” at New Village Arts Theatre

Cast your mind back to the mid-1970s, when the American women’s movement was just picking up steam, and consider Edward Albee’s 1975 Pulitzer Prize-winning “Seascape.”

Long-married Nancy (Dana Case) and Charlie (Jack Missett) lounge on an unspecified beach. Charlie is happy just lying there with his hat over his face, but Nancy thinks if one beach is good, visiting two or three or 25 must be better. She suggests they spend their retirement having adventures – say, beach-hopping around the world.

Charlie wants none of it. “You’ve had a good life,” he says. “We’ve earned a rest.”

But life in the past tense doesn’t interest Nancy, tired of the housewife/mother routine: “We’ve earned a little life, if you ask me.”

They spend the first act of the play sniping at each other in this fashion. There is talk of suspected infidelity and contemplated divorce and the repeated push-pull of wanting more and wanting nothing. It’s the seven-year itch all over again, ho-hum and soporific despite the efforts of these fine actors.

The end of act one brings something new and threatening (or new and fascinating, depending on your viewpoint): two enormous green sea lizards appear over the dunes. They are Leslie (Justin Lang) and his wife Sarah (Amanda Morrow), resplendent in Shirley Pierson’s fabulous costumes and curious about those other two strange-looking creatures who walk so funny.

After the obligatory cowering (seeing Case and Missett, shaking and lying on the sand in supine submission postures is a hoot) and poking by Leslie, a conversation ensues and a sort of interspecies communication begins.

These aren’t just any lizards – they speak rudimentary English. Nancy and Sarah talk about kids. Sarah says she has, maybe, 7,000 progeny and is fascinated by Nancy’s talk of nursing her young and their 20-year maturation process. Charlie explains the cultural significance of shaking hands.

I suppose Sarah and Leslie represent the pre-’70s male-female American relationship in that Sarah defers to Leslie in everything, just as most women did back then. It seems they left the watery deep because, as Sarah says, “we had a sense of not belonging anymore.”

Will Sarah and Leslie stay on land or return to the place they’ve always known (as Charlie might have done)?

Well, who really cares? Though most women still find “having it all” an elusive goal, male-female dominance is no longer the hot issue it once was, fitting in has an entirely different context now, and these days “Seascape” seems more quaint than compelling.

But that doesn’t dim the brilliance of Kim Strassburger’s direction or the overall quality of the production, which is top-notch. From Pierson’s costumes to Kristianne Kurner’s set design and fine sound and lighting by Matt Lescault-Wood and Curtis Mueller, respectively, this is a first-class job.

Case and Missett are excellent as the arguing couple, a sort of low-wattage George and Martha without the profanity and viciousness.

Lang and Morrow are equally fine, giving the four-legged pair intriguing (and anthropomorphized) personalities. And they get loads of extra points for the style and movement they give to those costumes (credit yoga teacher Morrow for that).

The details

“Seascape” plays through June 9 at New Village Arts Theatre, 2787 State St., Carlsbad.

Thursday and Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 3 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm.

Tickets: (760) 433-3245 or HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.