Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"The Breach"

Seattle Repertory Theatre
January 16-February 9, 2008
Box Office
(206) 443-2210

One who has not experienced the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath cannot fully understand the horror and fear so central to Seattle Repertory Theatre's current play, "The Breach." This is not to say that they will find it unaccessible, for they will most certainly gain further insight into the chaos, loss, and confusion left in the disaster's wake. However, despite the heavy and emotional subject matter, the audience leaves with a surprisingly strong sense of hope, once all is said and done.

With such a deep issue, it is important that "The Breach" has a strong foundation to rest upon; namely, its script (Catherine Filloux, Tarell Alvin McCraney, and Joe Sutton). In terms of writing authentic dialogue, the playwrights capture and respect the Southern dialect while keeping the script comprehensible to a much larger audience. It's not easy to weave multiple, complex themes throughout three different storylines: a handicapped father trying to cope without his son, an Iraq soldier; a naive, Northern reporter who wishes to understand the racial tension underneath the dark waters; and a stranded, fragmented family waiting for help on a rooftop. Rather than having a distinct sense of the three different writers, the play itself feels as if it were written by a single, focused entity.

The lighting throughout the play was delicately and effectively used. Pastel colors were projected onto a screen upstage, setting the mood for different scenes. Focused, white lighting was also used to direct the audience's attention and provided a stark contrast to the projected colors. The set consisted primarily of a pool underneath the front of the stage. It brought both the actors and the audience in direct contact with this mysterious and unpredictable element. In addition, a waterfall, acting as rain, was constructed from the top center of the proscenium and falls into the pool, providing a transparent wall between the actors and audience.

John Aylward (Mac) and Nike Imoru (Water). Photo Credit: Chris Bennion, 2008

The cast is an eclectic group of Seattle veterans and newbies, all providing emotionally jarring performances. John Aylward, William Hall, Jr., and Crystal Fox particularly capture tension, anger, and vulnerable humanity in such a way that would do real survivors proud. Nike Imoru is certianly interesting as she portrays the character of Water, slippery and malicious, and makes the best out of an arguably unnecessary metaphorical character. The child actor (Michelove Rene Bain) gives the weakest performance, but, as a fourth grader, is understandably at a disadvantage from the rest of her experienced cast. She in no way, however, detracts from the high quality of the acting in general.

While frustrated and frightened emotions dominate the play, humor is not forgotten among the dredges of turmoil. Significant tension is eradicated by subtle jabs against the "powers that be," comments which the audience eats up with delight and relief. This reflects the brilliant paradoxes of the work; that within such a devastating disaster, humanity is not entirely seen at its worst, but seen greatly at its best; that a great truth is able to finally appear through the debris of destruction; and that through a disaster that threatens life itself, human community and love can emerge stronger than ever before.

By: Jack Jarden and Natasha Rae

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