59E59 Theaters’ latest Brits Off Broadway offering brings We Live By The Sea to the colonies, after sold out runs at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Beijing, and the Arts Theatre, London West End.
Upon entering the little black box theater, misty vapors swirl amidst the hues of light and sweet live vocals fill the ears. One of two girls crouched in the doorway cheerfully asks permission to tap the tops of each of our shoes in greeting as we walk in, tap tap tap, tap tap tap. Two singers, two actors, and other sundry items are strewn across the stage. A sail is stretched across the space, and naked light bulbs hang from naked wires.
The play begins as Katy (Alexandra Brain), an autistic 15-year old girl, narrates a piece of music to its glorious finish, introducing the parts as they unfold; we see videos of her and of the sea projected upon the sail behind her. It is a wonderful and engaging opening.
Katy then proceeds to introduce herself, her 18-year old sister Hannah (Alexandra Simonet), her imaginary dog Paul Williams (Lizzie Grace) and the story that’s about to be told, as well as the story within the story, about a King, a Princess Knight and dragons. Shortly thereafter a new neighbor, one 18-year old Ryan (Tom Coliandris), stops in for a visit, and their lives are irrevocably changed.
Musicians Josh Flowers and Julianna Zachariou weave the music of The Mason Brothers and others perfectly throughout this piece. Alexandra Simonet brings a subtle, emotional and empathetic performance as Hannah. Lizzie Grace’s performance as Paul Williams is fresh, funny and adorable.
Bright-eyed Tom Coliandris as Ryan is earnest, yearning and sincere. Alexandra Brain shines as Katy; her performance is funny, touching, and inventive, her frenetic depiction of an autistic youth always remaining three-dimensional. All are skillfully directed and staged by Alex Howarth, who uses the small space expertly to tell this tale.
All told, We Live By The Sea is a gorgeous, moving story about loss and personal triumph. From start to finish, every little touch in this production is well conceived, from the effective and imaginative set all the way down to the postcard from Katy in the program.
“The King said to the Princess Knight that even the biggest dragons can be slain if you have someone fighting with you.”