How can you tell the story of the massive 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed over 200,000 people in fourteen countries, one of the deadliest disasters in history? Playwright David Yee tackles the it by giving pieces of the story using different characters in different countries over a period of years. These scenes are united by themes of tragedy, hope, and redemption in the haunting carried away on the crest of a wave now at the Hub Theatre.
Helen Pafumi has scored another success in her search for new and interesting plays to premiere in the D.C. region, again going to Canada to find this small gem. Yee engaged in extensive research and spoke to many tsunami survivors to develop these stories of how the tragedy impacted people.
The play takes place on an abstract set (Robbie Hayes) that lends itself to easy transitions aided by effective lighting (Jimmy Lawlor). At the start of the play we see the actors staring out towards a blue light representing the approaching ocean wave.
The tsunami itself is depicted most dramatically in an early scene where a brother and a sister’s house has been washed out into the ocean. The two siblings (Nora Achrati and Rafael Sebastian Medina) are desperately discarding items in an effort to keep their house afloat.
The best scenes occur in the first half of the play: a Catholic priest and a Muslim architect (Ryan Sellers and Andrew Ferlo) discuss the religious implications of the tragedy and whether a group of people in a church were saved by a miracle; a Toronto radio shock jock (Edward Christian) attempts to use a song to parody the popular response to the tragedy; and the awkward parting of a man (Andrew Ferlo) and a young girl (Hedy Hosford) that he pulled out of the water.
Five of the six actors are called on to play multiple roles. The talented ensemble moves seamlessly from story to story. While all give effective performances, Andrew Ferlo and Ed Christian’s characters make the strongest impressions. Young Hedy Hosford is a fine actress with an expressive face. She handled her role so easily she made this reviewer feel like he does wobbling on ice at a skating rink when a young child passes him doing jumps and axels.
carried away on the crest of a wave
Closes December 8, 2013
The Hub Theatre
John Swayze Theatre
9431 Silver King Court
1 hour, 45 minutes with 1 intermission
Fridays thru Sundays
The play is not without flaws. The connections between the stories, while recognizable, are a little weak to justify the message of interconnection that is made in a heavy-handed manner at the end. Part of the reason that the individual stories do not have more cumulative impact is the widely divergent styles that Yee utilizes, including a fantastical scene about a father literally falling into a hole after his daughter’s death.
Overall, carried away on the crest of a wave has more hits than misses and those successes are likely to linger in your mind after leaving the Hub Theatre. While the work may have a special resonance now in the aftermath of the Philippines’ typhoon disaster, the high quality of the writing and acting give the production a timeless appeal.
carried away on the crest of a wave by David Yee . Directed by Helen Pafumi . Featuring: Nora Achrati, Ed Christian, Andrew Ferlo, Hedy Hosford, Rafael Sebastian Medina, and Ryan Sellers . Designed by Robbie Hayes, Jimmy Lawlor, Matthew Nielson, Madeline Bowden, and Suzanne Maloney . Produced by The Hub Theatre . Reviewed by Steven McKnight.