By Joe Pintauro, Lanford Wilson & Terrence McNally
Directed by David Whiteley
With Ella Caldwell, Brett Cousins, Daniel Frederiksen, Laura Gordon & Kat Stewart
Lighting by Nick Merrylees
By The Sea, By The Sea, By the Beautiful Sea (May 15 – June 9, 2002)- Helen Thompson, The Age 20-May-02
For their fifth show in five months, Red Stitch Actors Theatre has chosen a trio of plays set on the beach, a gesture of commitment to the beachside suburb where they are based.
This setting provides the reason for the characters in each play to be doing something ordinary yet removed from life’s action. Watchers of the sea are stilled into temporary contemplation of a landscape that can take on any mood.
The three characters in Joe Pintauro’s play Dawn are on the beach for the far-from-everyday purpose: to scatter the ashes of their dead mother. Her son (Daniel Frederiksen), daughter (Kat Stewart) and daughter-in-law (Laura Gordon) are feeling a bit squeamish about it all.
What follows is a family mini-drama set off by the emotions aroused by this gathering. The play has an interesting contrapuntal flow of sympathies, although its character development is sketchy and its ending conventional rather than surprising.
Lanford Wilson’s Day has more surprises to it. This beach encounter is between a gardener and a beautiful, seductive woman – interrupted by the arrival of his girlfriend who looks like an off-the-wall loser.
Ace (Brett Cousins) seems stuck with Bill (Kat Stewart), including her drug dependency, while Macy (Laura Gordon) appears to represent a class and world of wealth that could be as seductive as she is herself.
Yet things are not what they seem. The two women discover that they had been to school together, where it was Bill who belonged to the upper strata of wealth and privilege. This information perhaps explains Macy’s transformation into something much uglier: she attempts to corrupt Ace with an offer she thinks he can’t refuse.
This apparently casual beach encounter suddenly becomes something deliberately set up and sinister.
Terrence McNally’s Dusk sees three young adults accidentally encounter one another on a beach. Marsha (Ella Caldwell) and Dana (Laura Gordon) are instant rivals for the attention of Willy (Daniel Frederiksen). What follows is a slightly bizarre contest, deliberately orchestrated by the egotistical Willy, who tempts them despite his confession to having a wife and six children.
McNally sets up all three as satirical targets, typical self-absorbed, sexually predatory thirty-somethings, it would seem, for whom the beach is an opportunity for physical display. Yet in the end he reveals Dana lives through a daily tragedy while Marsha breaks down to reveal a loneliness that gives her sexual games a real pathos. Only Willy remains incorrigible and something of an enigma.
These are three solidly performed, well-made plays linked by the theme of human need for close relationships as much as by their seaside settings. They are interesting rather than profound, conventional in using contemporary sexual freedoms to display the eternal need for loyalty and love.
Laura Gordon in By the Sea, By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sea. Photo: Julian Dolman.