Theater Review: A BODY OF WATER (Actors Co-op)

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by Tony Frankel on March 9, 2020

in Theater-Los Angeles


Part Albee, part Ionesco, part mystery thriller, part Doubt, part Groundhog Day and — sadly — all red herrings, Lee Blessing’s 2005 A Body of Water can’t decide what it wants to be in the end — which is a shame because individual parts of this body are bracing. (Actor Co-op’s production claims a “world premiere ending” for Los Angeles.) While staged beautifully in-the-round by Nan McNamara, her direction lacks the underlying psychological complexity needed to fill in the gaps the playwright intentionally leaves blank. Still, there’s a powerhouse central performance from Treva Tegtmeier, nifty dialogue, and some truly evocative moments that perfectly capture the existentialism of life.

The opening grabber astounds: A middle-aged man and woman, presumably a couple, emerge into a gorgeous living room for morning coffee in their robes. Surrounded by water on all sides, the home’s magnificent views are a wonder to the pair, who have no idea where, or who, they are. The dialogue is delicious, and often humorous, as they navigate their opaque relationship with frustration and surprise. More fun revelations will arrive for the 90-minute one-act, including an attorney, a daughter, and a murder (maybe — we hear and see these things but are uncertain what really happened).

I love the premise, but since the play twists with new information, the compelling force must be the actors: Treva Tegtmeier’s knockout emotional performance as a distraught woman caught up in a repeating-yet-shifting nightmare is awesome, but Ivy Beech — as the presumed daughter — doesn’t seem to have a credible backstory (the playwright may not offer what really happened here, but the actress must decide what has occurred), so the experience becomes less unsettling as she becomes more involved. Rounding out the triad, Bruce Ladd is perfectly cast but his graciousness and occasional fervor lack the boxed-in frightened feeling Tegtmeier creates. Warren Davis’s directional sound design is spookily great, and Rich Rose’s set manages to evoke a rich weekend retreat while not littering the playing area with the books and knick-knacks such a place would have. It’s unfortunate that the most unsettling aspect here is the playwright’s decision to leave us hanging as much as his characters. That’s reason enough to try a different world premiere ending the next time.

photos by Larry Sandez

A Body of Water
Actors Co-op
The Crossley Theatre, 1760 N. Gower St.
(at the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood)
Fri & Sat at 8; Sun at 2:30; some Sat’s at 2:30
ends on March 15, 2020
closed early due to Covid-19
for tickets: 323.462.8460 or Actors Co-op

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