Playwright: Edward Albee. At: Remy Bumppo Theatre Company at the Greenhouse, 2559 N. Lincoln Ave. Tickets: 773-404-7336; www.remybumppo.org; $42.50-$52.50. Runs through: Oct. 14
By 1975, Edward Albee had reached a stage in his career where he could write whatever he pleased, so he wrote a symposium on evolution offering a kind of ambiguous comfort to an uneasy society. To liven the dialogue, he attached two of his talking heads to a duo of amphibious pilgrims exploringlikewise uneasilythe prospect of a home on dry land. Since U.S. audiences incline more toward physical action than verbal wordplay, the clever costumes and body language of its reptilian Adam and Eve dominate most productions of this enigmatic and undeniably "talky" play.
This approach is not that of Remy Bumppo, though, nor of production director (and recently inaugurated company artistic director) Nick Sandys. Yes, the saurian couple who interrupt Charlie and Nancy's seaside retirement are an adorable pair of creatures from the Blue Lagoonso much that front-row spectators must be warned not to pull Leslie and Sarah's tailsboth of whose portrayers have researched their range of movement with care and diligence. This is the story of the human race, however. If we don't fully absorb our elderly hosts' dissertations on the oceans spawning life as we know it, then we dilute the pathos when these surrogate parents find themselves giving reassurance to an infant species embarking on its journey into an uncertain future.
Fortuitously, Sandys has assembled a cast well-schooled at making the most of every word uttered, even as the show's technical team provides plenty of opportunity for stage business alleviating Albee's tendency to overwrite. Angela Weber Miller's scenic design resembles a diorama in a museum, reinforcing our impression that we are witnessing a significant historical milestone, while the inventory of beach paraphernalia (the playbill credits Janice O'Neill as "Picnic Consultant") allows us to share in the alien visitors' childlike wonderor skepticismof modern lifestyles.
None of this would matter without the superlative skills of Annabel Armour and Patrick Clear, whose extensive experience working together translates to a cozy-bickery marital affection we recognize instantly. They are capably supported by Sean Parris and Emjoy Gavino, playing the ancestral spouses whose loyalty to one another (after 7,000 eggs) remains undiminished by the terrors they encounter in this brave new worldamong them, an awareness of mortality. When Sarah finally grasps the concept of death, Leslie's fury at Charlie for introducing this sinister topic is echoed within each of us, sparked by the emotions it took us centuries to develop.