There’s a lot of a heart in At Sea, and a lovely “put on a show” vibe. Members of the Wheel troupe take on multiple production roles, such as multi-talented Elizabeth Floyd who here pulls double duty with a capable acting performance and a nice touch with prop design. Her miniature garden-in-a-trunk is a visual highlight of the show.
The real draw here is Kruckemeyer’s text, which is poetical without being too abstract. At Sea tells the story of five geographically disparate individuals all in some phase of mourning and riddled with self-doubt, bound together by mystical Rhode Islander Sylvia (Elizabeth Ung), who has a tendency to spontaneously teleport to wherever she is most needed. Early on she teleports into the path of sad-sack aspiring soldier Caleb (an affable Nick Duckworth), and romance blossoms. At this point in his writing career Kurckemeyer was not above dabbling into the well-worn trope of the extraordinary woman falling for the underachieving guy. Ung has the most acting chops in this troupe and plays Sylvia’s increasing agency and control over her powers nicely.
At Sea, Staring Up
closes December 11, 2016
Details and tickets
Director Jack Read shows potential with generally well thought out stage pictures, though I advise he take more time considering sightlines in a space as tight as the Arts Center. Actor Adrian Iglesias has a nicely say with a one-liner as sardonic widower Noah, but a huge chunk of his performance takes place seated on the floor in a downstage corner, hidden from much of the audience’s view.
Later, an awkwardly staged sex scene goes over the top to keep the action hidden by a blanket to the point where it drains the moment of any heat. Read has also given his actors lots of leeway with dramatic pauses, which slows the pace. On the other hand, the choice to feature live guitar with original music by Zach Fichter is a nice theatrical touch that takes advantage of the intimacy of the space.
At Sea, Standing Up is a lights-up, light-down bare bones kind of show. I’m all for stripped down production elements and stretching a dollar, but given that so much of At Sea is steeped in magic and geographic separation, the lack of diversity in design elements beyond Floyd’s props somewhat waters down the storytelling. (Given their size and prominence in the production, Floyd really should be given a set design credit.)
More attention on lighting design would have gone a long way in creating the atmosphere a piece of fantasy like At Sea begs for, if even to create a variety of playing spaces, something that is entirely possible in the DCAC black box, despite its limited resources. A curtain-call splash of color revealed that there were resources the troupe could have take advantage of.
Read, Floyd and the rest of the Wheel troupe are off to a bold start with At Sea, showing good taste in material. I’m curious where their passions will take them next. With a vanishingly short opportunity to catch it, chances are this show will have closed by the time you read this. Meanwhile, I am all in on Kruckemeyer, whose beautiful work has been a refreshing presence in this year. He’s a major talent to watch.
At Sea, Staring Up by Finegan Kruckemeyer. Director: Jack Read; Properties Design: Elizabeth Floyd; Original Music: Zach Fichter. Presented by The Wheel Theatre Company at the DC Arts Center through December 11th, 2016.