A BODY OF WATER
Lee Blessing’s A Body of Water is an interesting exploration of the nature of memory and identity. A middle-aged couple—Avis (Christine Lahti) and Moss (Michael Christofer)—wakes one day in a summer home, surrounded on three sides by water. Neither can remember who they are or how they got there, or why they can’t remember. Then another woman shows up, Wren (Laura Odeh)—possibly their daughter, possibly their lawyer. She spins elaborate tales for them of their identities and past lives. Which one, if any, is real?
The production itself is spare, with an appropriately minimalist set. The large picture window looking out onto the lake dominates the set, making a fine frame for Jeff Croiter’s evocative lighting design. Lahti and Christofer as Avis and Moss work well together. Christofer plays Moss as a little too simple-minded at times, but Lahti ’s polished and elegant performance counterbalances that nicely. Laura Odeh’s Wren, however, is the real star of the show. It would be very easy to play Wren as one extreme or the other—either cruel and manipulative, or the dutiful daughter trying desperately to shock her parents’ memories back into working order. Odeh manages to play both at the same time, rather than swinging back and forth.
It’s a haunting subject, but a strangely matter-of-fact play. We never learn the answers to the various questions; instead, we are left to decide for ourselves whether or not to believe what we’ve heard, or to spin our own explanation of who these people are and why they can’t remember. Done poorly, this would be an infuriatingly obtuse play; fortunately, Maria Mileaf’s direction is crisp and blunt. Modern audiences often take the concept of character for granted; most plays have established characters, on an established and clear search for something, and the story unfolds based on events and revelations. A Body of Water, instead, uses the characters’ search for identity as the narrative, and in the process probes some fundamental philosophical truths. Mileaf wisely keeps the action and the play firmly grounded in reality. We may not ever learn who Avis and Moss really are, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. After all, most of life’s important questions go unanswered.
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