First produced in 2005 in Minneapolis, Minnesota with a New York off-Broadway premiere in 2008, A BODY OF WATER makes its world premiere with a new ending at the Actors Co-op Crossley Theatre in Hollywood. Written by master playwright Lee Blessing, nominated for multiple awards including the Pulitzer Prize, A BODY OF WATER has been described as “maddeningly enigmatic,” “a puzzle play,” and “an existential metaphor mystery.” As Blessing himself states, “The play is allegorical about the agony of existence in a modern world of hellish personal isolation.” Certainly, Blessing’s funny/sad/poignant play qualifies as an existential journey lightly touching upon the absurd.
Avis (Treva Tegtmeier) and Moss (Bruce Ladd) wake one morning to discover that they don’t know who they are, where they are, or if they are even acquainted with each other. Their memories are clearly in flux as they gaze with wonder and confusion upon their surroundings – a summer house surrounded by water on all sides. After some slyly clever moments, they think that perhaps they do know each other – that maybe they are husband and wife – but who knows? Enter Wren (Ivy Beech), a younger woman who could be their daughter – or maybe she’s an attorney hired to represent them after their murder of their daughter.
Director Nan McNamara does a powerful job of helming a play filled with fear, pain, and humor as she carefully dissects the lives of three individuals and their interactions with each other. McNamara opines, “As you enter Moss and Avis and Wren’s world, it is my hope that you will be reminded of places in your own lives where fear and pain stop you, where a rewritten past presents a clear transformation into the future, and where denial and isolation can become a hell that holds us hostage.” Tegtmeier, Ladd, and Beech are superb as the trio trapped inside their puzzling and perplexing world, a world which cannot be depended upon to help them escape their lonely lives. Cunningly, author Blessing has managed to insert opportunities for laughter into their lives.
Rich Rose’s scenic design furnishes an appropriate backdrop for the amnesic group, with Paula Higgins’ costumes, Andrew Schmedake’s lighting, and Warren Davis’ sound adding to the mystery. For those into trivial pursuit, Blessing has gone to the birds for inspiration: Avis means bird in Latin, while everyone is familiar with Wren. At one point, Moss was also called Robin!
A BODY OF WATER is a fascinating study of an existential conundrum. Involving and entertaining, the tale may go in circles – but it also seems to mimic the challenges of real life. Cheers to Blessing for this final, final ending to the tale. It couldn’t happen any other way.
A BODY OF WATER runs through March 15, 2020, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2:30 p.m. on Sundays (extra Saturday matinees at 2:30 p.m. on 2/15 and 2/22). The Actors Co-op performs in the Crossley Theatre, located at 1760 N. Gower Street, Hollywood, CA 90028. Tickets are $35 (seniors $30, students $25, group rates available). For information and reservations, call 323-462-8460 or go online.