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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
A BODY OF WATER
at Primary Stages

AN OPEN BOOK
By SANDY MACDONALD

  Laura Odeh, Christine Lahti & Michael Cristofer /PH: James Leynse

The middle-aged man and woman who wake to find their personal memories erased in Lee Blessing's A Body of Water - enjoying a belated New York premiere at Primary Stages after a 2005 debut at the Guthrie - seem oddly incurious at first. Sure, they could probably find out more about themselves - whether they're a couple, for instance - by poking about the luxurious waterview house they find themselves in. But instead they natter on about the usefulness of such strategies, engage in a brief adult version of "doctor" (no identifying marks), and sip the coffee which luckily one of them still had the presence of mind to make.

Even with the excellent portrayals provided by Christine Lahti (nicely underplaying to an intimate house) and, even more so, Michael Cristofer (a waltzing partner of marvelous emotional range), the 90-minute play can be a frustrating experience not only for the amnesiacs but for onlookers - as is perhaps Blessing's and director Maria Mileaf's intent.

The situation starts to clarify a bit with the arrival of a young woman, Wren (Laura Odeh, whose hard-bitten delivery initially grates). She claims to be their defense lawyer - or is she, in fact, the daughter she says they stand accused of smothering, then bludgeoning? If the latter, she sure has a predilection for sadistic mind games (that murder scenario is mere opener). You wouldn't want her tending your befuddled old age.

Although the immediate effect is to feel disoriented and manipulated (composer Bart Fasbender divides the scenes with mood-enhancing interludes featuring frantic strings and discordant piano), the aftermath is more of a gnawing mystery. Who are we, without our names and histories and belongings? And what is it that nevertheless leaves us craving connection? There are no reliable answers here, but plenty of provocative questions.

 


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