Retiring couple, neighborly lizards face change in ‘Seascape’
Dan Toot and Alee Spadoni in "Seascape."
Oak Park Festival Theatre, Madison Street Studio Theatre, 1010 Madison St., Oak Park
8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays, March 16-Apr. 21; previews March 14-15
$25, $20 seniors, $15 students
(708) 445-4440; www.oakparkfestival.com
Updated: March 14, 2013 11:12AM
Two long-time couples contemplate their futures in “Seascape.” Nancy and Charlie are empty-nesters facing retirement. Sarah and Leslie are also trying to figure out what to do next — maybe move to a drier climate.
Oak Park Festival Theatre is presenting Edward Albee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning satirical comedy under Stephanie Shaw’s direction.
“I like what it has to say,” said Oak Park Festival Theatre artistic director Jack Hickey of Skokie, who plays Charlie. “It starts out with the couple who’ve been married for a long time. Now they’re trying to redefine what their relationship to each other is. They’re having trouble trying to figure out what they’re going to do with the rest of their lives. In the middle of this, these huge green lizards come out of the sea. Lo and behold, it turns out that the lizards are kind of dissatisfied with their life underwater and think it’s time to make a change.”
Hickey said his character, “is a little reluctant to change. I think he wants to settle down and enjoy his retirement and not do anything out of the ordinary, whereas his wife wants to explore.”
Nancy is happily married, reported actor Mary Michell of Wilmette, who plays her. “But marriage is complex.”
Michell thinks it’s compelling for the audience to hear the couple’s discussions about their future plans. “Both arguments are valid,” she said, adding that the two are “best friends and they need each other very much but they are looking to redefine that relationship now that the children are gone.”
Charlie’s willingness to talk to the lizards doesn’t surprise Hickey. “Charlie has a very special relationship with the sea,” the actor said. “When he was a kid, he used to go underwater a lot and try and stay there. I think he’s struck with the fact that these creatures, who have been down where he has fantasized about being, have now made the effort to come up.”
Michell jokingly added, “We talk to the lizards because the lizards talk to us. If a lizard said hello to you, you’d probably say hello back.”
The sea-lizards are played by Chicagoans Dan Toot and Alee Spadoni. Each actor is doing extensive preparation to play believable lizards.
“I’m going to the gym to make sure that I’m physically fit,” Toot said. He has also done research to discover “what kind of behavior lizards exhibit — how they move and how they interact. The biggest thing is lizards are cold-blooded so they only move when they have to.”
“The most exciting thing for me is the physical challenge,” said Spadoni, who has also been putting in time at the gym. “I watched a lot of lizard videos,” she added. “I went to the library and read some books. Dan and I went to the zoo and we looked at lizards there.”
Even though they are lizards, Toot said, Leslie and Sarah have “a very committed relationship. In the human world, you would call us a married couple. We have been exploring the changing landscape of the wild kingdom together.”
“There’s a bond between them that’s more advanced than other animals,” Spadoni said. She believes they engage in conversation with humans because, “They’re trying to find where they’re welcome. They have a need to connect.”
“I’m attracted to this play because of the quality of the writing,” Toot said. “It’s a Pulitzer Prize-winning play for a very good reason.”
Hickey admitted that the playwright could have written this play for two human couples. “In some weird way he did that with ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,’” he said. Hickey believes that Albee made one couple lizards in order to say, “Life and love and change are so universal that they don’t just apply to humanity. They apply to everything.”
“I think people will really enjoy this play,” Michell added. “It’s thought-provoking and, at the same time, very funny and very entertaining.”