Fishy business

The Sea

By Olafur Haukur Simonarson
Directed by Kristina O'Neal
The Luminous Group
Sande Shurin Theatre
311 W. 43rd 6th fl. (; 212/352-0255)
Equity showcase (closes June 29)
Review by Charles Battersby

Judging from the dialog in The Sea, it seems that people in Iceland like to talk about fish. A lot.... The main character, Thordur (Richard Kohn), owns a fishing company and is constantly talking about fish. Fishing laws, how to run a fishing company, fishing stories from when he was a fisherman; and when he isn't talking about fish, one of the supporting characters is. When no one's talking about fish, they inevitably manage to work in some sort of fish metaphor.

In addition to the fish, playwright Simonarson manages to squeeze in a story. Thordur is a rich old man, and his children are all out to take over his business. The suspiciously King Lear-esque plot thickens when Thordur gathers his children together to make a grand announcement, presumably about how his fortune is to be divided. All of Thurdor's children have grown unsatisfied with living in a fishing fjord, and most of them have moved far, far away. Yet, like salmon returning to the place of their birth, the multitude of children arrive over the course of the first act, each bringing a spouse or significant other. The children (and the audience) are hooked with the bait of some great revelation, but have to wait for the final scene before Thurdor reels them in.

Before the big revelation scene comes, an assortment of subplots come out. Each of the 13 characters in the play has some secret to be revealed. Most of these subplots are so tiny that they should have been thrown bac (who cares who stole Thurdor's stamp collection?), and they overwhelm the main story like piranhas devouring a cow. Some of these subplots are woven together by the end of the play, but others are simply red herrings.

Lasting over two hours, the play is bloated and unfocused with too many subplots and extraneous characters, all of whom sport Icelandic names that get real confusing real fast. When trying to keep track of 13 people with names like "Ragneidur" and "Gudmunder," it's easy to forget who's who, and how they're all related.

Even though the story and action are slow-paced, there were some good moments, and some of the fish metaphors are actually clever. The characters are all believable, and the story of children growing away from their parents' culture is a universal one. The cast held their own with the difficult material and brought their characters to life, despite all of them having to share the stage with each other.

Costumes, by Frances Colon, highlighted the differences between the older generation and the younger very effectively, especially with a couple of younger women who were dressed for an NYC nightclub rather than their father-in-law's fjord.

Director Kristina O'Neal made the most of the script, so that when The Sea hit its high moments it hit hard. Despite O'Neal's work, and the fact that The Sea was an award-winning success in Iceland, in New York it seems like a fish out of water.

(Also featuring: Evelyn Page, Simone Lutz, Elizabeth Flynn Jones, Liam Mitchell, Annette Fama Jarred, Brett Michael Dykes, Josh Stein Sapir, Christos Klapsis, Kristina O'Neal T.J. Zale, Suzanne Levinson, and Briana Trautman-Maier.)

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Sets: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2003 Charles Battersby