Cast Back to Sea

Edward Albee’s “Seascape” failed at the box office on Broadway back in 1975, running for only 63 performances despite the presence of actors Deborah Kerr and a young Frank Langella. Among other things, theatergoers 30 years ago had difficulties accepting an aging couple on the beach relating to a land-seeking pair of sea lizards, but the play still won Albee his second Pulitzer Prize.

And now that “The Goat or Who Is Sylvia?” has acclimated audiences to the playwright’s insightful use of interchanges between human and other species, “Seascape,” for all its typical Albee surrealism, has become much more accessible and even enjoyed a successful Broadway revival less than 18 months ago.

“Seascape” follows a traditional Albee format originated so famously in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”, one that finds two seemingly disparate couples discovering that they have much more in common than they originally thought. Here, he tackles issues of evolution, aspiration, relationships and the meaning and purpose of life from two divergent directions.

Santa Barbara City College is mounting a new production of the play opening Friday night on campus. We spoke with director Katie Laris.

Q. First off, I must confess I’ve never seen “Seascape.”

A. I haven’t either. It went through a whole period where it wasn’t revived that much. I lived in New York for fifteen years, but it was never produced during that time. But I’ve always loved Albee’s plays, and like many classics it still feels timely.

So what made you decide to do it at City College?

There are parallels here with “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf?”: two couples who are very different. How will they interact and make it through the time? Will they be destroyed or supported; fall into or out of love? There are similarly deep themes, a sense of games that people play. But “Seascape” is a lot lighter and more optimistic – there’s a real sweetness and sense of connection between the two couples. Albee celebrates the idea of language in facilitating relationships and in this case major changes.

It’s also really a lot of fun. There’s the amazing, sparkling, witty repartee you come to expect from Albee, which works both on a dialogue level, just good smart conversation, but with so much going on below the surface. Actors always love plays with a lot of subtext and Albee is famous for that. Plus, it’s hard to beat a couple of human-sized talking sea lizards who are on their way up from the ocean to the land.

In what way do you think that “Seascape” is timely?

It’s very current. It raises issues that are quite topical, including evolution. And Albee has had a real resurgence, certainly in Santa Barbara, where everybody’s doing his plays recently. I think the reason is because he speaks to the idea of how to behave civilly in difficult times.

What have you taken away from the experience so far?

Just how fabulous Albee is, and how great it is to work on a really wonderful script. It does make a difference in terms of richness of the experience. We’re performing it absolutely exactly as written. It’s a fun, engaging, warm show and I think audiences will really enjoy it. (“Seascape” plays from April 27 to May 12 at the Jurkowitz Theatre on the SBCC campus. For info on show times and ticket prices call 965-5935.)