By David Stallings; Directed by Cristina Alicea
Anthony Crep and Frankie Seratch in Barrier Island
BOTTOM LINE: Well-executed, fascinating, and 15 minutes too long.
The Press Notes say: Barrier Island (written by David Stallings, directed by Cristina Alicea) tackles the nature of a fearless community that chooses to stake their lives on the strength of the historic Galveston seawall - built to protect the island from natural disasters - as they await the arrival of one of the most devastating hurricanes to hit the United States since Katrina, Hurricane Ike.
Yes, the above is true, but Barrier Island is less about the storm coming to Galveston, Texas than it is about the grievances aired, the friendships and relationships made and broken in the calm before the storm.
Barrier Island focuses on Laura, who fled the small confines of Galveston, had a son out of wedlock (if you'll excuse the antiquated expression) and decided to raise him on her own. She returns to the island with her son to see her ailing parents, and her arrival causes upheaval amongst the small community, for those who've been there forever and for those who've just come back as well. Meanwhile, hovering in bits and snatches of conversation, is the looming threat of a major hurricane and whispers of evacuation. To the show's credit, we spend next to no time fussing over the storm, instead we focus on the people and their stories. The storm is not an event, a dynamic force of change; it is simply a fact of life, like breakfast. It is what's next.
By and large, the actors are all very good, the direction is fairly seamless and unobtrusive, the design is easy and natural. Everything is just understated enough to let the story be the real star, and deservedly so.
I think the play is incredibly moving. There were times I wanted less dialogue, as some moments were driven home a little hard, and the story is more intriguing when the characters say less and let the moments speak for themselves (this is that extra 15 minutes, sometimes there was just a wee bit too much talking onstage...). But the people themselves are fascinating in their simplicity. God-fearing, hard drinkers with roots so deeply embedded in the ground its a wonder they can get up in the morning. For an itinerant wanderer like me, that kind of lifestyle is both repellent and fascinating because it's so foreign. The deep, penetrating questions of roots vs. bravery vs. leaving vs. cowardice are ones not easily answered, and to Stallings credit, he doesn't try to. He lets you decide for yourself.
(Barrier Island plays at Center Stage NY, 48 West 21st Street, 4th Floor, through May 22, 2010. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 7pm; and additional performance is Wednesday, May 19th at 8pm. Tickets are $18 ($15 for students, seniors and Texans with valid I.D.) and can be purchased online at www.theatermania.com, or by calling 212-352-3101. For more information visit mtworks.org. )