In just 80 minutes, playwright Benjamin Benne succinctly writes about the experience of the death of a beloved family member with raw honesty and simple beauty. Despite the odd structure of the title, What / Washed Ashore / Astray is a very human story, with a little room for play and magic. Having recently gone through this experience, this play hit very close to home for me, and I was wiping away tears throughout the show. But it's quite lovely to see one of the most fundamental human experiences depicted on stage in such a beautiful way. Combined with wonderful performances from three of #TCTheater's best actors, an incredibly detailed set design that places us right there in the seaside cottage, and some delightfully inventive shadow puppetry, What / Washed Ashore / Astray is a must see for anyone interested in thoughtful human dramas (continuing through April 16 at Pillsbury House Theatre in South Minneapolis).
|Melissa Hart and Barbra Berlovitz (photo by Bruce Silcox)|
|Jamie and Auntie on the shore (Tracey Maloney and|
Barbra Berlovitz, photo by Bruce Silcox)
The script and performances would be enough to make this a beautiful play, but the addition of the shadow puppetry (designed by Oanh Vu and Andrew Young and performed by them along with Izzy Alesna) adds another layer of depth and beauty. As Chris and Cat reminisce about their childhood, we see the scenes play out in shadow - running on the beach, constructing a fishing pole out of a stick. We also see the waves of the ocean or the sunset in glorious color, even a beached whale. Memory and nature come to life in a magical mystical way.
It's hard to separate the puppetry from the rest of the design, which is also lovely and evocative. The seaside cottage is brought to life in exquisite detail by scenic designer Joel Sass (natch). A raised deck spans the entirety of Pillsbury House's long performance space, a detailed cozy living room scene on the left, a deck looking out over the ocean on the right, and a framed screen at center stage. This is where the puppetry plays out, transforming the off-white surface into another world. Sounds of the ocean, as well as recorded voices, and lighting that softens and dims for the puppetry show, all contribute to the seaside ambience (sound design by C. Andrew Mayer, lighting design by Kathy Maxwell.)
What / Washed Ashore / Astray performs Wednesdays through Sundays until April 16; evening shows are at 7pm and just 80 minutes so no excuses not to see this beautiful rumination on death, life, love, and family.