Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 5, 2012

The Blue Deep

Williamstown Theater Festival, Williamstown, MA
through July 8, 2012
by Jennifer Curran

"The Blue Deep" is the sort of play that borders on something big, but bogs itself down with trying too hard. Too much obvious symbolism undermines the play’s real world message. It simply doesn't need dreams-as-symbols or actors suspended from the fly space. While beautiful to see, it is out of place. The play could be told with two characters rather than five. As fun and charming as Becky Ann Baker, Finn Whitlock and Jack Gilpin are, their characters really have no story or even purpose.

Blythe Danner stars in Lucy Boyle’s new play as Grace Miller; a mother and wife dealing with the loss of her husband. Danner finds that perfect balance between strength and vulnerability. She rules the stage as Grace rules her perfectly tended yard. Everything in its place, kindly brushed under the carpet as Grace runs and darts and dodges the shadow of grief that seem to be looming ever closer. When Grace’s daughter Lila (portrayed beautifully if not predictably by Heather Lund) arrives with a few plastic bags of clothes, Grace's life comes to a screeching halt.

What the play gets right is the fight between Grace and her daughter. Their fight is within themselves and finding a place for their sadness as well as finding a place in each other’s life and ultimately deciding upon who gets to claim the deeper pain. The words they haven’t been able to say are let loose in a stunning torrent of despair.

Unfortunately, the play falls heavy by too many obvious choices. A cookie jar urn -- we know where this is headed. A bag of pot shared among three boomers? That joke again? The predictable pattern of fight – walk out, return, act like nothing happened became old.

There are moments of brilliance found buried among the mundane. The best example is the scenic design by  Andrew Boyce and Takeshi Kata. Sag Harbor never looked so perfectly poised. Danner’s acting is raw and honest and almost hard to watch. In those moments, it makes all the rest superfluous. Why speak in riddles when the plainness of language bears such weight when delivered by a woman at the top of her game?