Authored by Florence Nicosia
Pictured is Maureen Anderman in full makeup as an anthropomorphic lizard. The picture is a cultural artifact because of the type of film used and its depiction of Albee’s conception of what an anthropomorphic lizard looked like. The camera was a Kodak Pocket Instamatic that uses 110 film to produce 3” x 5” photos. This type of camera was considered state of the art in the seventies for amateur photography. This picture of Anderman was taken to assist the makeup artist in his/her effort to recreate Anderman’s makeup for each performance. Maureen Anderman is a Tony award nominated actress best known for her appearances on stage. Edward Albee was an American playwright whose plays were often considered commentaries on human relationships.
The story line of Seascape examines nuances in interpersonal communication that can significantly alter our perceptions of one another. Though all of the characters speak English, when each of the four tries to communicate with the others, only varied success is achieved. The theme of communication takes on several forms in the play. Throughout the play, their inability to communicate and understand each other’s wants and needs creates tension and hostility.(1)
Charlie and Nancy, an older couple are relaxing after having a picnic lunch at the beach. The discussion leads to things Nancy would like to do with her life. Stolid Charlie, however, does not share his wife’s adventurous spirit; he is simply “happy . . . doing . . . nothing.”(2) He shows very little interest in Nancy’s conversation. Nancy is turned off by Charlie’s demonstrated indifference to her comments about the beautiful day and the joys of life. When Sarah and Leslie (the anthropomorphic lizards) appear, Nancy is filled with delight and curiosity whereas Charlie is frightened. Intrigued by the creatures, Nancy acts as the mediator, minimizing anger and frustration between the males while encouraging communication. Sarah and Leslie take on human proportions and their reactions to the disagreements between Charlie and Nancy are expressed in human emotions. After learning about the intricacies of life from Nancy and Charlie, the lizards want to return to the ocean. Charlie submits to Nancy’s wish and the two convince Leslie and Sarah to remain in their world under their guidance. Hence, Nancy’s adventurous spirit has been satisfied. Enthusiasm for life has triumphed over indifference.
In Albee’s play the lizards embody Judeo-Christian values. They exhibit an endearing naiveté, not understanding why humans would treat each other in a nasty or disrespectful way. These core values are founded in a love of God and one’s fellow man. Respect is offered as one would desire to receive respect. Service to others seeks to extend to Nancy and Charlie the opportunities for happiness and fulfillment. Albee’s central question for his audience is “Will the human values espoused by the lizards be assimilated by Charlie leading him to appreciate all the wonderful things he has in life?”
Clive Barnes of the New York Times reviewed Seascape saying in part: “It is a curiously compelling exploration into the basic tenet of life. It is asking in a lighthearted but heavy-minded fashion whether life is worth living. It decides that there is no alternative. Albee himself said, “Seascape wonders whether we are an evolving species or perhaps a devolving one. Two lizards; two humans.”(3) The play’s ending seems to opt for the opinion that we are a continually evolving species. We are capable of understanding complex concepts and effectively communicating a myriad of emotions while maintaining respect for those with whom we communicate. This is consistent with Albee’s apparent view that life is what we make it. It conflicts somewhat with Clive Barnes’ pessimistic reaction to the play, when he says that Albee seems to decide with regard to life that “there is no alternative.” “Winner of the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for drama. Critically hailed in its successful Broadway production, the play brings true eloquence, wit and warmth to its compelling yet subtle examination of the very meaning and significance of life itself.”(4)
Those of us who care about the impressions we leave strive for clarity and understanding in all of our interpersonal communications. This goal, although not always reached, is well worth pursuing.
(1) “Seascape.” Drama for Students. com. (March 10, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/educational-magazines/seascape.
(2) Edward Albee Society. Accessed March 14, 2017. http://edwardalbeesociety.org/works/seascape/.
(4) Barnes, Clive. “Albee’s ‘Seascape’ Is a Major Event.” January 27, 1975. Accessed March 10, 2017. http://www.nytimes.com/1975/01/27/archives/albees-seascape-is-a-major-event.html.
“Edward Albee.” Wikipedia. Accessed March 10, 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Albee.
Edward Albee Society. Accessed March 09, 2017. http://edwardalbeesociety.org/works/seascape/.
“Our Mission.” St. John’s University. Accessed March 10, 2017. http://www.stjohns.edu/about/our-mission.
“Seascape.” Drama for Students. Accessed March 09, 2017. http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/educational-magazines/seascape.
Weber, Bruce. “Edward Albee, Trenchant Playwright Who Laid Bare Modern Life, Dies at 88.” The New York Times. September 16, 2016. Accessed March 09, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/17/arts/edward-albee-playwright-of-a-desperate-generation-dies-at-88.html