By Julia Polinsky
Paul Carlin as Gil and Glynnis O'Connor as Joyce
photos by Carol Rosegg
brief: Gil (Paul Carlin) and Joyce (Glynnis O’Connor) return from Easter Sunday
services and prepare to host Easter dinner for their son, Kenny, (Adam
Petherbridge), daughter-in-law, and in-laws, Jack (Malachy Cleary) and Audrey
(Shelly Burch). Jack and Joyce have an awkward conversation about Easter,
religion, spirituality, their marriage, the recent marriage of their son, and
his wife’s pregnancy, and that’s before the son or the in-laws arrive.
Shelly Burch as Audrey and Malachy Cleary as
talk about a range of subjects, including but not limited to: Gil asking Joyce
if he himself is a spiritual person; Gil trying to talk Joyce into a nooner;
Joyce snidely mentioning that the daughter in law was probably pregnant when
they got married, both Joyce and Gil snarking how much they dislike their
in-laws, and, significantly, the “Secret Sea” of the title, which Gil remembers
as the way the doctor talked about Joyce’s uterus. Charming.
the time the other actors appear onstage, the audience has been set up to
expect conflict about marriage, life, spirituality, and pregnancy, before
anything else has happened. Ryan does not disappoint these expectations,
unfortunately, which is a pity, because the predictability of the subsequent
revelations, mixed with WASP cattiness, selfish childishness, and pathos, made
for an unpleasant 80 minutes without intermission.
performances abound. Not one of the actors strikes believably at the heart of
the problem the play deals with. Either too much or too little, or too loud, or
too broad, or too removed, their performances hit the wrong notes, every time.
Even the scene tacked on at the end, which should have touched hearts, instead
resolved too many issues, tied them up with a ribbon, robbed the audience of
the chance to make its own decision. Basically, it established In The Secret
Sea as a lecture, a polemic, rather than a play.
can be argued that theater should address important issues, that, since ancient
Greece, plays have made catharsis possible. Maybe so. But at least, do it
the handsome set by Beowulf Boritt, splendid lighting by Ken Billington, and
excellent way director Martin Charnin moved his actors around the stage – not a
wasted movement, all the space used, and used well – Cate Ryan’s In The
Secret Sea seemed more like a community theater production than
professionals, working in off-Broadway, New York City.
The Secret Sea
The Becket on Theatre Row
7pm; Wed, Thu, Fri, 8pm; Sat 2 and 8; Sun, 3pm
Call Telecharge at 212-239-6200
Theatre Row Box Office
410 West 42nd Street
(between 9th & 10th Aves.)