THE SEA by Edward Bond, directed by Brenda Bazinet, with Hazel Desbarats, Alan Jordan, Sam Malkin, Janet Bourgeois, Brett Christopher and Angela Fusco. Presented by Actors Repertory Company at the George Ignatieff Theatre (15 Devonshire). Runs to March 9, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Saturday-Sunday 2 pm. $18-$28, Sunday pwyc, stu/srs discount. 416-504-7529. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Edward Bond's rarely staged the Sea is part biting drawing-room comedy, part philosophical commentary on the state of the world. The Actors Repertory Company production captures many of its strengths without finally plumbing its depths.Set in a seacoast town ruled over socially by the dragonlike doyenne Mrs. Rafi (Hazel Desbarats), the show begins with a storm that drowns Colin, the fiance of Mrs. Rafi's niece Rose (Janet Bourgeois). The tragedy might have been averted but for the fact that townsman Evens (Sam Malkin) is too drunk to help Colin's friend Willy (Brett Christopher), and the draper Hatch (Alan Jordan) sees the distraught Willy as a space alien trying to infiltrate human society.
Director Brenda Bazinet moves the setting from England to Newfoundland without making much use of the change, but she nicely balances the bizarre comedy -- complete with touches of farce -- against the emotions stirring beneath the town's ordered life. She gets standout work from supporting performers like Darren Hynes, Robert Nasmith and Mike McPhaden, who carve out strong characterizations as Hatch's impressionable followers. Best of all are Bourgeois and Christopher, who communicate the tenderness, sensitivity and passionate hurt of young people forging a future from the tragedy that's been handed them.
But there are more tones in Mrs. Rafi and Hatch, the show's most splendidly written figures, than Desbarats and Jordan supply. Desbarats rises to Mrs. Rafi's final speech, a blend of self-inflation and understanding of her role in the community, but she's not imperious enough for much of the show. Jordan, looking like Terry Gilliam's grinning cartoon head on the Monty Python show, plays either obsequious or loony, not allowing even a touch of the necessary sympathy for Hatch.