A time-honored genre of theater is the "memory play" in which characters explore their past in flashbacks. Author Lee Blessing has a completely different kind of play - a sort of "lack of memory play" where the protagonists can't remember their past.
Firebelly Productions, a small company that likes to tackle plays featuring strong roles for actors to sink their teeth into, is presenting "A Body of Water" at Theatre on the Run through July 20 in a production that relies on an interesting concept for its impact.
That concept is that a mature man and woman awake one morning with absolutely no knowledge of who they are, what their relationship might be, what their history could be and even where they are. The audience first discovers them as they emerge in robes from the bedroom of a house on a hill, apparently on an island surrounded by water. It seems they awoke not even knowing their names.
At first they speculate on who they might be and why they don't have any memory. Soon they are searching for clues. Are there any photos in the house? How about a wallet or purse with drivers licenses or business cards?
Soon they are joined by a third party, a young woman who seems to be getting tired of having to fill them in on the details of their lives since they wake every morning with blank slates for memory. Just what her relationship to the couple might be is a not-too-well-resolved mystery.
It is that lack of resolution that leaves the evening just a bit frustrating. But along the way during the short (one hour and forty minutes with one intermission) performance, the intrigue of the situation and the quality of the performances make for a memorable evening of theater.
Patricia Foreman and John Collins are the two memory challenged characters. Each establishes a satisfying personality that seems fully formed even if the people they play don't know what events from their past may have led to their habits, preferences, fears and foibles. They explore the edges of personality tentatively, just as the playwright envisions the characters doing.
Tori Miller is the younger, knowledgeable character who guides their voyage of re-discovery.
The play is by Lee Blessing whose best known play is "A Walk In The Woods." He also wrote "Eleemosynary," "Independence" and "Thief River." What do all these have in common? Interesting characters in fascinating situations. "A Body of Water" continues that tradition.
<i>Brad Hathaway reviews theater in Virginia, Washington and Maryland as well as Broadway, and edits Potomac Stages, a Web site covering theater in the region (<a href=http://www.PotomacStages.com>www.PotomacStages.com</a>). He can be reached at <a href=mailto:Brad@PotomacStages.com> Brad@PotomacStages.com.</i>