We’ve seen “Jaws.” We all know what an innocent fishing expedition can become.
The stakes are more emotional than predatory in Audrey Cefaly’s intense and steamy one-act, The Gulf, returning to the Washington area in a finely-pitched production from Peter’s Alley Theatre Productions.
The world premiere of The Gulf was at Signature Theatre in Shirlington in 2016. The play has weathered well, the turbulence, torpor and mordant humor of the couple’s relationship as vivid as ever.
The Gulf is both literal and figurative, as Kendra (the fearless Jasmine Brooks, scrappily playing the complexities of a seemingly simple soul ) and Betty (Anna Fagan, flirty and restless, neediness peeling off her in waves) while away a summer afternoon fishing in the shallows of the Alabama delta. Kendra quietly simmers behind her fishing pole, listening and not listening to Betty’s chatter about future career path possibilities she’s found for them both in the self-help book “What Color is Your Parachute?”
Trouble is, Kendra’s not the self-improvement type. She’s content with getting by—a blue collar job, fishing on the weekends, football on TV, sex and a steak dinner. Betty, on the other hand, wants to escape the dead-end bartending life for college, travel, growth.
As solid and hunkered down as Kendra is, Betty’s the opposite—fidgety, easily bored, skittering around the boat like a crab. They even take up space differently, with Kendra manspreading to Betty’s girlish, ankle-crossing poses.
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Things get choppy when the motor breaks, stranding the pair on the delta for the night. The small boat becomes as big as a yacht with the space between them, a gaping expanse they are forced to confront.
In close quarters, Kendra and Betty are isolated, not intimate. Their differences sprawl before them like the Gulf surrounding them in all directions. At first, they dip a toe into the resentments and inertia of their 6-year relationship, before spilling it all out like bilge water.
The Gulf closes October 6, 2019. Details and tickets
The involving thing about The Gulf is that Cefaly is not interested in resolution and answers to Kendra and Betty’s polarized relationship. She presents these two women as whole stories unto themselves, stories that unwind and rewind over an intense period of time before drifting away and dispersing like the tides.
You gotta love a play—and a playwright—who doesn’t spoon-feed the audience or feel like every emotion needs to be packaged with a nice bow. Instead, you are presented with two strong stories in the shapes of female characters with rough edges, unpretty actions, and unapologetic sexuality. This is a Gulf where you’ll want to take a deep dive.
The Gulf by Audrey Cefaly . Director and Costume Design: Aly B. Ettman. Featuring: Jasmine Brooks and Anna Fagan . Lighting Designer: Peter Caress. Sound Designer: Reid May. Scenic/Props Designer: Dan Remmers. Assistant Sound Design: Aimee Thibert. Stage Manager: Michelle Janota. Produced by Peter’s Alley Productions . Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.