A Body of Water, and a Rubik Cube

Spare Stage’s production of Lee Blessing’s A Body of Water, directed by Steven Drewes, examines the nature of personal identity as defined by memory and the extent to which we choose what we remember, and in doing so, choose our identity.

Before the lights dim, the sound of birds chirping loudly fills the air. As the lights come up, a middle-aged man (James Allen Brewer) walks into a well appointed living room, wearing a silk robe, coffee cup in hand. Soon a woman (Holly Silk) of similar age, also wearing a robe, joins him. They look out the window through the trees at a large body of water that appears to encircle the house. It becomes apparent that neither of them remember who they are or what they are doing there.

Although they have no recollection of their own identities, they have ample recollection of society, modern technology and some of their personal history to pose a variety of circumstances that could reasonably apply to them, including the likelihood they are husband and wife. Their disagreements over their scenarios are, indeed, the type of disagreements typically heard between husband and wife. When a young woman (Halsey Varady) appears who apparently knows them, a new wrench is thrown into the works.

The characters themselves, with the exception of the young woman, Wren, are relatively simple and complacent people, almost cartoon caricatures in their simplicity. They enjoy their oblivion, it appears, being content to make do with what they have rather than to challenge their awareness. Moss, the man, likes to spin yarns for himself and displays a suspicious nature, while Avis, the woman, is socially engaging. Wren, who has no problems with her recollection, tolerates their meandering when not toying with them because she can.

Though an interesting examination, the play as written does not veer from the path of cerebral exercise sufficiently to create a dramatic world driven by human instinct or passion. It’s a story of pretense, of truth, and the variable nature of both, slightly existential, yet too comfortable for an existential reality to prevail, in which event, the characters’ plight would be defined. For the actor, assuming the role of Moss or Avis would appear to be a challenge, given that no resolution is in sight and no objective is readily at hand. All of the actors portrayed their characters competently, though little ground appeared for them to excel.

A Body of Water appears to be incomplete, presently resembling a Rubik cube, puzzling and demanding, but not terribly vital.

A Body of Water plays Friday through Sunday through November 22 at the EXIT Theatre, 156 Eddy Street, San Francisco. For tickets and show times, visit online at www.sparestage.com.

- Eryka M. Fraczek
Member, SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle