Fringe Shorts: The Depth of the Ocean

Andre Francisco enjoyed getting his feet wet in "The Depth of the Ocean" by Perpetual Motion Theatre Company at the YWCA. The actors had challenges, but all in all did well. See it Friday, 8/11; Saturday, 8/12; Sunday, 8/13. All performances 7:30.


Think No Exit, but on a raft in a YWCA pool.

Though entrance requires a waiver and the removal of your shoes, The Depth of the Ocean is worth it if only to watch theater on water. And that is what this play was about; exploring the space and challenge of water. The acting was hurt by the presentation, but it didn’t cripple the production. With no blackouts, no easy way to enter or exit the stage, and the truly impressive challenge of delivering long speeches while swimming, the actors had some unusual hurdles.

The story follows five people on a raft. All the characters have suffered some catastrophe that stranded them at sea. Slowly they realize that their accidents are not the strangest thing confronting them. They quickly form allegiances and establish roles for themselves. The problem is that the actors stick too rigidly to these roles and the characters can seem one-dimensional. The one exception is Mark Sweeny, playing (“Holden,” an uneducated country boy from Kentucky. His stereotype-breaking speech is fresh and original.

Anna, the proper Brit, played by Alia Mortensen, is the most interesting character to watch. Her proper demeanor, so out of place on a lifeboat in the ocean, starkly contrasts the others’ behavior. Eric Sharp gave the most passionate performance, as Brandon the tsunami victim, though it lacked authenticity. This problem plagued many of the actors. Extreme emotion is expected in a life raft in the ocean with strangers, but somehow it didn’t quite work here.

Though the performance space gave this play its edge, maybe that is also what threw off the emotional pitch. Perpetual Motion did a good job of transforming the pool into a theater space but it wasn’t complete. The overly bright lights and the lifeguard on duty altered the theatrical experience. Complete darkness and a proscenium stage create greater theatrical believability. Pools don’t quite have the same credibility.

The company’s exploration of the challenges and possibilities of echo, swimming monologues, water-soaked costumes, and swimming fights made this play enjoyable. The watery experiment detracted from the acting at times but certainly added to the experience. All in all, despite problems, it was worth seeing.