Humankind has always been fascinated by the ocean- its beauty and its deadly power. The Water Plays, three short plays by Brett Steven Abelman, deals with our morbid fascination with the sea’s most present danger- drowning.
The first of the three plays, Bathyphobia, tracks the slow, concrete bound and watery descent of a man indebted to the mob ( J. W. Crump). Darkly funny, the man’s racing thoughts become more and more absurd and associative as he comes ever closer to the far away sea floor. Bathyphobia strikes the perfect balance between humor and fear as we watch the main character try in vain to continue to joke as he runs out of air and the water pressure begins to slowly crush him.
The Water First opens with two characters in a row boat, out to sea without a paddle. Their relationship is unclear at first, but their dark and twisted past slowly comes to light. Nick Jordan (Cam) and Tiffany Garfinkle (Dreah) are both excellent. Both performances are detailed and interesting- you are never sure which character to pity and which one to fear.
Dolphinless follows a girl thrown overboard, lost at sea with only a life jacket, as she fights for her life. Drifting between consciousness and lucid dreams Aishie (Bridget Garwood) struggles to decided if her life is worth fighting for. Visited in dreams by her sister (Erica Smith) and an old woman(Carol Randolph) who seems to know her very well, Aishie has to evaluate the her past life choices in order to find something worth living for. The staging for this play was simple and beautiful- utilizing lengths of black fabric and black clad members of the ensemble. A play that takes place in both the ocean and land bound dreams is a challenge for any director, but Gwen Grastorf rose to the challenge.
The true star of The Water Plays is the writing. Each play is detailed, natural, and well crafted. The Water First is a standout, slowly revealing it’s secrets without leaving the audience confused or lost. Well crafted new plays are few and far between, especially at Fringe, and I commend Brett Steven Abelman and will look for productions of his work in the future. Additional congratulations are due to Sound Designer/ Composer Sam Cooper, both for his beautiful original music and for his choice of “Big Sky” by lamentably underrated Kate Bush for closing music.
See It: Fine acting, fine playwrighting, and fine production values are what you look for in a show.
Skip It: Your fear of drowning is just too strong.
A Note: I have worked with Tiffany Garfinkle in the past. It did not effect my review.
The Water Plays
Written by Brett Steven Ableman
Directed by Gwen Grastorf
Produced by Craig Abelman and Brett Steven Abelman
Reviewed by Jessica Pearson
Running time: 100 minutes
Read all the reviews and check out the full Capital Fringe schedule here.
Did you see the show? What did you think?