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Although I’ve long been a fan of Douglas Bowie’s plays his latest, SOMEWHERE BEYOND THE SEA, currently getting its first airing at the 1000 Islands Playhouse, seems not quite ready for prime time. It tells the story of Celia, an amateur cook and housewife, on a “foodie” tour of the Scots Isle of Skye. Her meeting and involvement with tour host Trevor, a world-renowned food critic, opens her eyes to her need for a wider life. Assailed by global weather disasters plus various herds of sheep and cows, they eventually make it back to London’s Heathrow Airport, both somewhat changed.
Part of the play’s problem is that in Act I both Celia and Trevor are one-note characters. He’s a snob and she’s offended. We don’t know much more about them at intermission than we did in Scene 1. Act II is another story entirely. Both Celia, very well played by Tracey Ferencz and Trevor, again well played by distinguished looking Stewart Arnott, blossom into three-dimensional characters that we can believe in and root for.
Surrounding this core of reality are Alison Deon and Matthew Gibson in a multitude of roles – railway dining car waiters, a Scots innkeeper and his wife, bizarre newscasters and even Celia’s daughter and husband. Herein lies another problem – partly casting and partly directorial.
Having seen Mr. Gibson in a number of productions, I’d say that his Act II scene as Celia’s husband is one of the best things he’s ever done. However he has little or no sense of comedy and comic timing. There’s some very funny stuff in all these roles, especially that of the newscaster, that just doesn’t come off. Miss Deon does a better job of allowing her characters to become a bit more skewed and extreme, especially the Scots wife.
Director Greg Wanless hasn’t gone far enough in surrounding the lead couple’s reality with comic mayhem. I kept wishing for touches of “Saturday Night Live” or “The Daily Show.” On the other hand, our interest in Celia and Trevor needs to build in Act I with more character development and subtext. By Act II it’s almost too late. Another problem – like most of the audience I thought the penultimate scene was the end. The following One Year Later scene doesn’t really add or resolve anything – just confuses the issue.
Sean Mulcahy has designed a flexible black metallic multi-level set with a beautiful photo of the Isle of Skye as a backdrop. Small set pieces that roll on and off keep the action fluid. His costumes are good, especially Miss Ferencz’s red suede boots. Adair Redish has done a nice job with the lighting and has worked with Soundman Bill Chabassol to produce some nifty rainstorms.
There are the basics for a fun play here. The definition of “bosky glen” had me chortling. I’m sure both the play and characters will develop further throughout the run. On a scale of one to five the 1000 Islands Playhouse production of SOMEWHERE BEYOND THE SEA gets three and one-third fish. For North Country Public Radio I’m Connie Meng.