Retirees Nancy (Arden Teresa Lewis) and Charlie (Alan Schack) have found a quiet beach on which to picnic, paint watercolors and argue over how to play out the rest of their days. She yearns to travel the world; he's determined to take it easy. Just when it appears a stalemate is about to ensue, a pair of giant talking lizards Leslie (Paul Gunning) and Sarah (Kristin Wiegard) saunter up to make things interesting. Though with SeascapeEdward Albee won his second Pulitzer in 1975, few critics would argue this gentler comedy surpasses his blistering Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, which was pointedly snubbed by the award's advisory committee in 1963. Peppered with sharp lines and wisdom about what is both lost and gained in a long-term relationship, Seascape is also full of ideas, many familiar life is short, people can be brutes, self-awareness is a burden as well as a riff on difference and bigotry that probably felt more illuminating in the mid-'70s than today. Performances here are solid under Charlie Mount's smart direction, which nevertheless doesn't overcome the occasional dissonance. Lewis combines exuberance, humor and serious longing with dexterity, but displays a childlike energy at odds with Nancy's Anatole France references. Schack's Charlie, languid with resignation at the opening, skillfully reveals the fear driving his emotional shutdown, but comes off as subdued when the play begs for a little slapstick. Less encumbered by Albee's intellectualizing, the lizards ultimately get the better deal. Gunning brings a delightful preening self-seriousness to his role, and Wiegand delivers both wonder and grief well. The production values are notably high, with rocky dunes executed impeccably by set designer Jeff G. Rack and thoughtfully lit by Yancey Dunham. Director Mount also created and judiciously doles out a vaguely haunting sound design, and Gunning's reptile costumes bring the right touch of storybook to the absurdism. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Oct. 16. (323) 851-7977, theatrewest.org.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Starts: Sept. 9. Continues through Oct. 16, 2011