Hub Theatre Carried Away on the Crest of a WaveBy David Siegel • Nov 20th, 2013 • Category: Reviews
Hub Theatre: (Info) (Web)
John Swazye Theatre, Fairfax, VA
Through December 8th
1:40 without intermission
$30/$20 Seniors, Students
Reviewed November 11th, 2013
Nature is showing such wrath to humanity; and playwright David Yee brings the personal losses, costs and hopes into a stark, somber play; carried away on the crest of a wave [sic]. The play, now at the Hub Theatre in its U.S. première, investigates what happens to the survivors of a calamity; the massive 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Last week’s Typhoon Haiyan that struck the Philippines was certainly on your reviewer’s mind as well.
carried away on the crest of a wave is based upon Yee’s interviews with survivors of the Indian Ocean tsunami. He distilled the interviews into a 100 minute, no intermission drama composed of separate stories entwined with quick interludes as the scenes change. Yee is an actor and currently the artistic director of the fu-Gen Theatre Company, Canada’s only professional Asian Canadian Theatre company, which he also co-founded.
carried away is a most ambitious work. As directed by Helen Pafumi, the show is poignant and unrelenting. You cannot turn-away as it unfolds. This is no undemanding evening that lightly glosses over pain or the aftermath debates, both secular and faith-based, about responsibility for nature’s unexpected fury. It aims to be, and is, a deep immersion into wounded people dealing with their vexing issues of survival. That the production comes just a week after Typhoon Haiyan’s massive destruction gives it just that more universal relevance.
The scenic design (Robbie Hayes) brings the audience into the center of a beaten down world. As the audience sits down, there are objects floating from the high ceiling like so much flotsam and jetsam and debris piles on the floor. The soundscape (Matthew Nielson) has NPR news voices crackling like so many walkie-talkies and the constant sounds of waves. A sea-foam green lighting (Jimmy Lawlor) comes through a large shattered glass wall. It is the impact of the tsunami that the audience feels.
The cast of six throw themselves into the multiple roles they perform over the eight or so vignettes. Each actor has a moment in the spotlight. The cast includes professional acting veterans; Nora Achrati, Edward Christian, Andrew Ferlo, Rafael Sebastian Medina, and Ryan Sellers as well as Hedy Hosford, a nine-year old who has studied at the Academy of Fine Arts (Gaithersburg) and the Synetic Theatre.
The scenes range in impact and execution. Not all hit the mark. An opening vignette has a man and a woman trying to save their house from sinking by throwing all manner of personal possessions into the surrounding sea. It soon becomes a mythology tale about the sea turtle that supports the world that must be placated. There is a heated faith debate between on a Catholic priest and a Muslim scientist sent by the Vatican to investigate a possible miracle. A handshake ends the scene, but it is not one of real resolution.
There is an arresting scene about a father in a 4 1/2 year black hole of depression after the loss of his daughter. The black hole is a physical thing. He is simply unwilling and unready to come back up into the light of day even when offered a helping hand from his daughter’s boyfriend who came to rescue him.
There were several scenes that had more resonance to your reviewer. A woman (Nora Achrati) has abducted an orphan to “replace” the son she lost to the tsunami. It has taken the FBI (Edward Christian) four years to discover what she has done. What will the agent do with the information? Will he let her go? And whose side would you be on?
A young orphan girl (Hedy Hosford) has been rescued by a grumpy, hardboiled man (Andrew Ferlo) who is not in-tune with children. But when she gives him a hug of thanks, he slowly melts in a most understated manner, without making a sound. Hope is alive.
Radio shock jock (Edward Christian) wants to wake up his audience with a comic song about the tsunami. Is it too soon? Radio management thinks so. Others (Andrew Ferlo and Ryan Sellers) are not so sure. You hear the ironic song which brings back memories of the sharp tongues of Lenny Bruce, Louis C.K. or Howard Stern to name a few. You can decide for yourself its appropriateness.
And, there is a most poignant scene from which the play title comes, carried away on the crest of a wave. It is just such a totally heartbreaking piece of theater both in concept and acting. How does a middle-aged man (Edward Christian) deal with the loss of his wife to the tsunami? What does he most remember of her? And why does he open up with the most intimate of details to Jasmine, an escort (Nora Achrati) of all people. It builds from nothing into a scene of unexpected tenderness in a final action to bring the man the relief he seeks.
carried away on the crest of a wave is most certainly not a light evening out. It is very earnest in its depiction of darkness and despair. With its understandable unrelenting nature, pruning the “talkiness” of several scenes to make them more compact short stories will bring a greater impact; so audiences do that tune-out from the real pain they witness.
The Hub Theatre deserves kudos for its continuing flair in finding overlooked new theater works and playwrights. The workmanship and care of Hub productions along with its willingness to take risks is a wonder. The Hub, a small budget theater company, is building a well-deserved reputation for both quality and consistency.
Finally, Yee may want his audience to believe that even in tragedy and at the saddest moments, no one has to be alone; there can be someone around for them. That we are all connected. He suggests that in the last story that closes the play. As a line from the carried away production goes “maybe you are right, but not today.”
Photos by Melissa Blackall
- Nora Achrati: Beckett, Runner, Jasmine, Lenore
- Rafael Sebastian Medina: Swimmer, Sanjay, Makoto
- Ryan Sellers: Amal, Uncle, Makoto, Diego
- Andrew Ferlo: Ma’mar, Harboiled Man, Vermin
- Ed Christian: Crumb, Rick, Agent Nyguen
- Hedy Hosford: Orphan Girl
- Director: Helen Pafumi
- Scenic Design: Robbie Hayes
- Lighting Design: Jimmy Lawlor
- Sound Design: Matthew Nielson
- Costume Design: Madeline Bowden
- Prop Design: Suzanne Maloney
- Stage Manager: Will Pommerening
- Technical Designer: Jason Krznarich
- Master Electrician: Tom Epps
Disclaimer: Hub Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/9925.
David Siegel is a freelance theater reviewer and features writer whose work appears on ShowBizRadio, in the Connection Newspapers and the Fairfax Times. He is a judge in the Helen Hayes Awards program. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and volunteers with the Arts Council of Fairfax County. David has been associated with theater in the Washington, DC area for nearly 30 years. He served as Board President, Alexandria's American Showcase Theater Company (now Metro Stage) and later with Arlington's American Century Theater as both a member of the Executive Board and as Marketing Director. You can follow David's musings on Twitter @pettynibbler.