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Barrier Island by David Stallings – Off Broadway Theater Review

 

SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO?

 

picture – Barrier Island by David Stallings – photo by Antonio MininoTheater Review

by Cindy Pierre   

published May 12, 2010 

 

Barrier Island

now playing Off Broadway at Center Stage, NY 

through May 22

 

Over the past 150 years, scientists have developed several different theories to explain why barrier islands – coastal landforms that parallel the mainland coast – exist.  While the debate continues over their formation, David Stallings' Barrier Island, the first of his Galveston Cycle trilogy, offers one believable theory as to why people remain on these islands, even in the face of danger from hurricanes. Drawn from his own upbringing, Stallings' paints a handsome portrait of residents that value community and familiarity over independence and bodily safety.  This two-hour drama may lack excitement at times, but it's full of charm because of the great pride that the people invest in their way of life.

 

picture – Barrier Island by David Stallings – photo by Antonio MininoThe way of life may be calm and steady on most days, but there are several storms raging in the hearts and minds of the people.  Laura (Jennifer Laine Williams), a former native of the island, returns with her son Daniel (Frankie Seratch) to collect rent due on her father's bar.  The caretakers, Susie (Alex Bond) and Nate (David L. Carson), having suffered much economic hardship, are unable to pay.  Tension builds between the old friends as passion re-ignites between Laura and Trey (Anthony Crep), a former Marine and friend who has also returned.  Right before Hurricane Ike arrives, Trey presents Laura with what first appears to be an easy decision: stay and face the storm or leave the island with him.  But her need to stay in the midst of trouble and defend her clan proves otherwise.

 

While the choice between a new life and known territory is a nebulous one, Dan Gallagher's lighting design brings clarity to every scene and location.  Working with the constant interior of Craig Napoliello's bar, Gallagher creates moonlight outside of the invisible front doors and romance on a bar counter that doubles as a boardwalk platform where legs can swing over the water.  As important to carving out special moments as Stallings's script, Gallagher helps to execute the slice of island life that the production intends.

 

picture – Barrier Island by David Stallings – photo by Antonio MininoAnother factor that gives you the feeling of experiencing a neighborhood is the manner in which its secrets are revealed.  Under Cristina Alicea's direction, characters glibly discuss facts and emotions with those that never left and gingerly disclose to those that did.  And though there are few sparks between Williams and Crep, Alicea elicits longing and discontent with life out of both.

 

The people of Barrier Island are not a joyful bunch.  Money is tight, opportunities are scarce and fathers disappear from their daughter's lives to leave gaping wounds for lecherous older men to fill.  But they have each other and know it.  As a result, old wrongs can be made right, bad decisions can be accepted, and knees don't quake when a natural, destructive disaster looms near.  We may not know why barrier islands exist, but we know that they're capable of forming and maintaining in a variety of environmental settings.  The characters in this drama are made of the same mettle.  And because they have the courage and stubbornness to stand, we stand with them.

 

cindypierre @ stageandcinema.com

 

photos by Antonio Minino

 

 
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