DROWNING IN THE SEA AROUND US
by Harvey Perr
published October 17, 2008
A Body of
now playing Off Broadway at 59E59 Theater A
through November 9
Lee Blessing’s A Body of Water is not a play. It is a conundrum.
Who is that lady that I woke up with this morning? Who is that man I woke up with? What is this house we’ve never seen before? Why
do these robes fit us so perfectly? Who is this girl who claims to be our lawyer? Oh, that’s no lady. Is she my wife? Hey, that’s no
lawyer. Is she our daughter? And why does she lie in order to get us closer to the truth? And will we ever get to the truth? And who
Blessing may think he’s asking these existential questions with probing intensity, but he merely succeeds in growing more
irritating and less convincing with each turn of the screw.
I have some questions of my own: How does a play this unengaging get produced in the first place? And not only produced, but given
almost reverential treatment? And why did that woman, outside the theater, after the play, blame herself for not getting it? “I always
think it’s my fault,” she said when the play didn’t resonate with her, not even willing to give herself the benefit of a doubt, that
perhaps it was the playwright who didn’t do his job.
For the record, Neil Patel’s set is a sea of solace, a thing of beauty
that deserves a play as good as it is. And Maria Mileaf’s behaviorally astute direction does try to keep the play anchored in reality. And her
actors – the always interesting Christine Lahti, the less interesting but determined Michael Cristofer and, best of all, the feisty and
flavorsome Laura Odeh – do everything they can to carry out her design, but it is to little avail. They are left to grope around in an
enveloping fog of uncertainty from which there is no escape, for them or for us.
harveyperr @ stageandcinema.com