Friday, October 17, 2008

Review: A Body of Water


Michael Cristofer and Christine Lahti
Water of Reality Flows Through Memory

By Lauren Yarger
How much of life is a choice and how much depends on our memories? The answer, if you can find one in Lee Blessing’s A Body of Water running at Primary Stages in New York, seems to be all of it.

Avis (Christine Lahti) and Moss (Michael Cristofer) awake one morning to find themselves in a house surrounded by a body of water. Do they know each other? Are they married? Are they somehow connected? They don’t know, except for a couple of unrelated vague memories and they try to stir others (after gingerly opening her robe so Moss can inspect her body for identifying marks, Avis uses some serving tongs to examine Moss’s privates to see if anything looks familiar.) They’re interrupted by the appearance of a rather hostile Wren (Laura Odeh) who seems to be their daughter. But is she? Or is she the lawyer defending them in the murder trial of their daughter Robin, whom they don’t remember in a convenient insanity defense. Maybe Wren really is their daughter who delights in brightening her dull care-giver days by tormenting parents struggling with dementia. Or maybe all or part of what happens is only in the memory of one of the couple, comforted by thoughts of the other now deceased.

We’re never sure about anything, except that the body of water (perhaps representing reality) is ever present. If you’re looking for answers, A Body of Water is not for you and you’ll feel like the little boy not fooled by the emperor’s clothes and want to shout, “But this play has no dénouement or conclusion!” If you can suspend the need to solve the mystery, Blessing raises some thought-provoking issues.

Avis has a memory of breaking up with a boy. They didn’t share the most important memory of their relationship and she recalls that they lived entirely different lives, even as they made love. Even if the couple can’t remember their daughter, they are sure of a connection because they feel it. In fact most of the questions raised examine how much we can exist independently of shared memories with others and how people adapt to make that happen. “Are we alive?” Avis asks at one point. “I’ll settle for an illusion.” In the absence of answers, the characters determine that they do have a choice every day to be happy or sad.

Lahti and Cristofer give strong performances under the direction of Maria Mileaf. Odeh, in an unsympathetic role, is less confident and relies on a shouting monotone. Neil Patel’s set depicting the lovely view through a large picture window upstage and panels on both sides is simple, yet elegant despite being annoying since you can’t make out the water on one side despite repeated dialogue about being able to see water on all sides. Designer Jeff Croiter should adjust lighting that creates a distracting and constant reflection of the actors in the glass window (and gives us additional unwanted rear view of the actors turning from their audience in their robes for the body “inspection” scene.)

Christians might also like to know:
• God’s name is taken in vain

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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