For his directorial debut, Albion College theater major Alex Freeman chose Lee Blessing’s surrealist mind-bender “A Body of Water” as the latest in Riverwalk Theatre’s Black Box series. During the play, the audience is introduced to Moss (Michael Hays) and Avis (Mara Schaberg), a man and woman who wake up naked together not knowing who or where they are.
Are they married? Whose house are they in? As they try to deduce their identities, a young woman named Wren (Lindsay Palinsky) arrives and explains that she is their lawyer. She runs to their bedroom to get a purse and wallet filled with identification and a wedding ring. Then Wren drops the bomb: Moss and Avis are on house arrest and due to stand trial for the brutal murder of their daughter. Shocked and disgusted by Wren’s convincing testimony, the amnesiac couple becomes even more confused.
As the play unfolds, more twists are introduced, and it becomes apparent that no one is as they seem. The playwright toys with the inherent premise that the audience will believe what they see on stage, since they have no reason to doubt the characters. In the end, the audience is left to ponder the extent human beings will go to protect themselves from debilitating emotional pain.
Freeman does a good job of getting out of the way of the text and letting the powerful words drive the play. The only tricks are character-driven, and he is blessed with actors who know how to justify their movements.
The cast is deeply attuned to their characters and seems to have thought of all the possibilities, questions and possible answers that come with the play. All three players pull their weight and work off each other well. However, the standout of the show is Hays, who attacks his role with gusto. Watching him think and react on stage is a pleasure.
The production employs numerous sound effects by Joe Dickson, which adds to the minimal setting. The only thing that seems out of place is the music during scene changes; perhaps it is not even needed. The audience has a lot to think about, and silence would let it all sink in. This is an intriguing night of theater that will most likely be a catalyst for animated discussion in coffee shops late into the night.
‘A Body of Water’
Riverwalk Theatre black box
Through Dec. 7
8 p.m. Friday & Satruday
2 p.m. Sunday
Creole Gallery, 1218 Turner St., Lansing