Theatre Mir’s ‘The Sea’ is lovely to look at, but lost at sea

Sometimes there are those characters in a movie or play that you wish could be extracted from the clutter around them and given their own showcase piece. Such is the case with the characters of the grand Mrs. Rafi (Rachel Slavick delightfully channeling Hermione Gingold) and her assortment of lady minions (the standout being Patrice Egleston as a quivering Mrs. Tilehouse) who bustle about their sleepy East Anglian seaside town creating all sorts of havoc in Edward Bond’s long-winded but ultimately slight play, The Sea.

Based loosely on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Bond’s play begins with a sea storm that washes a beloved villager away in a shipwreck. Out of the wreckage emerges a young stranger, claiming to be the lost man’s friend. Suspicion grows as to who this man really is while the missing man’s wife grieves. Meanwhile, the town draper (Max Lesser) goes mad, thanks in no small part to bossypants Mrs. Rafi and her minions’ passive agressive doings.

While Theatre Mir’s production sets a beautiful seaside atmosphere (thanks mostly to Thomas Dixon’s sound design) and is pleasingly acted and directed, Bond’s occasionally witty play deflates whenever Rafi and her clan exit the stage. And, next to the women, the town draper’s decent into madness is the next most interesting thing on stage — and neither stories are what the show is really about. We’re supposed to care about the case of the missing man and something to do with humanity, fearing the unknown, and the notion of protecting our own self interest. Director Johathon Berry then links it all to the “divisive discourse of the election year” in his director’s note. Huh? It’s a superficial connection, much like most of the Bond’s attempt at making a point.

“The Sea” plays through April 15 at Theater Wit. More info here >

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