As humans, we fear losing control of ourselves. It is the worst nightmare of many to be infirm in some way, to lose one’s memories and to become entirely a burden on the ones we love. In A Body of Water, Lee Blessing’s latest work, he takes this concept—the terrifying uncertainty of forgetfulness—and makes it warm and funny, without losing the poignance and relevance that are innate to this subject.
A man (Jerry Whiddon) and a woman (Nancy Robinette) wake up next to each other, naked, in a house filled with white couches and surrounded by a lake. Neither has any idea why they are there or of their own identities. Their only source is Wren (Kate Eastwood Norris), a brusque young woman who knows who they are but never gives straight answers. Despite the myriad scenarios Wren gives to explain their situation, the horrifying implications of their plight never alter. To lose one’s memory day after day, waking up each morning with no idea who one is—that is to be completely at the mercy of another to define one’s reality, and it is the most terrible fate imaginable.
Nancy Robinette’s performance is a tour de force, powerful, witty, and compelling. It is a tribute to both the other actors and the play itself that her presence does not overpower the actors with whom she shares the stage. Robinette and Whiddon manage to bring out the comedy is the script as they attempt to determine which (if any) of Wren’s stories about their memory loss is true. Director Rebecca Bayla Taichman has taken this occasionally confusing story and made it compelling enough to be worth puzzling over.
James Kronzer’s set is composed of platforms floating over a dark space, topped with boring if expensive-looking furniture. Martin Desjardins and Matthew M. Nielson co-designed the sound, which includes eerie and vaguely melancholy music that weaves between scenes, barely noticeable, but ultimately putting the audience in the mood for the sad, scary, and ultimately human story that they are witnessing.