Flowing ideas run through ‘A Body of Water’

In Lee Blessing’s 2005 drama “A Body of Water,” that image recurs throughout. The two main characters, Moss and Avis, stare out their big picture window, entranced, to a beautiful panorama below, especially to a multipart body of water.

There are also three characters in the play — presented by Spare Stage — and in a sense each character is in fact a body (composed) of water.

Water is amorphous, quicksilver. And so are the people and events in this play. Their memories and identities, like water, are elusive, for them as well as for the audience. It’s a brain-teaser for sure — an intriguing one.

When the play opens, we discover that the middle-aged couple in bathrobes, sipping coffee, have no idea who they are, who the other is, what their relationship is to each other, where they are or why.

Strangely composed, they try to ferret out the reality of their situation. It feels like a cross between Harold Pinter and Samuel Beckett, and at first it’s reassuringly funny.

Soon enough, though, a young woman arrives. She identifies herself, and them, in various ways as the play continues. Are they sequestered murderers and she their defense attorney? Is she their daughter? A caregiver? Do they have Alzheimer’s? Did a tragedy rob them of their memories? Did one try to drown the other in the water below? Do they love each other or hate each other?

In Spare Stage’s spare production, directed by Stephen Drewes, there are a few too many blackouts for scene changes, which impedes the flow of the action. But nevertheless you stay riveted as you try to puzzle out the play’s reality.

As the couple, slender, elegant Holly Silk as Avis, and James Allen Brewer as, presumably, her husband, are an uneven duo; she’s all grace and self-control, convincing as a cool, slightly remote woman, while his acting is on a less adept level, at times rather wooden and awkward.

As the third, mysterious character, Wren, Halsey Varady strikes just the right mixture of anger, amusement, cruelty and empathy, keeping us effectively off-balance. The production may be flawed, but it’s endlessly interesting.

THEATER REVIEW

A Body of Water

Presented by Spare Stage

Where: 156 Eddy St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; 7 p.m. Sundays; closes Nov. 22
Tickets: $18 to $24
Contact: (800) 838-3006, www.sparestage.com

 

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