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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Theater Review: Young directors’ plays are so-so

culture@dailylobo.com

The hardest things to write about are the unspectacular ones. Without anything to praise or criticize, to connect with or discuss, the most these mediocre moments really elicit is an apathetic shrug.

Nothing exactly is terrible about “By the Sea, By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sea,” even the flat repetition; but neither is anything great about it.

The project is probably most interesting because it is three one-act plays directed by three young, local directors: Paul Hunton, Jennifer Loli and Isaac Christie. This is a worthy cause and should certainly be encouraged. Beyond that, there’s really not much to say.

Perhaps it’s mostly the scripts, each too weak to stand on its own, yet stiffly bound together. Entitled “Dawn,” “Day,” and “Dusk,” respectively, the three plays claim to take place on the same beach front at different times of the day.

Is it the same day? It hardly matters, because the difference of time does little to assist the narrative for each play, and certainly not the overall structure. 

“Dawn” and “Dusk” make the mistake of narrating events outside the action that have little to do with the conflict at hand. “Day” seems to be the most enjoyable piece, with each of the actors being at top form. The writing is also nuanced and tense, while still leaving room for humor. 

The actors — Michael Weppler, Francesca Tharpe and Hannah Colver — play different roles in each play, totaling nine roles. Perhaps this is the fault of the writing, but only the most extreme changes in character can be noticed. The performers are by no means terrible, but are not particularly engrossing either.

The set is nice, simple and attractive: sand is draped healthily over a quaint boardwalk, with bright blue surf painted at the audience’s feet.

There is a clever lighting gimmick, with the lights being on a lengthy slow fade-in during “Dawn” and a similarly lengthened fade-out at the end of “Dusk.” This functions to bookend the pieces, though it works much better for the opening, with actors entering the stage in the darkness of pre-dawn, utilizing flashlights as the only light source. By “Dusk,” the fading light is mostly distracting, simply forcing the audience to squint. 

Overall, this project seems like a student experiment or exercise: young directors getting their feet wet and actors trying on flexibility.

This should be wholly encouraged, and has worlds more value than some usual suspect’s affair. This is hopefully a new trend in local theater to take risks and challenges on the new and exciting.