nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
March 19, 2012
Spring Tides, a play by Melissa Gawlowski that is receiving its NYC premiere as part of Boomerang Theatre Company's annual repertory season, is something of a disappointment. This fantastical romance about a woman who is trying to choose between family and career owes a large structural debt to MGM's film The Wizard of Oz and echoes rather too strongly a couple of previous Boomerang successes, Jett Parsley's The Monster Tales and Tim Errickson's Endless Summer Nights. As realized by director Jeff Woodbridge on an unsuitable set by Nikki Black, Spring Tides feels unconvincing and derivative, lacking much of the magic and humor that I think it's intended to have.
The play's protagonist is Jane, a rising advertising copy-writer (she's about to win an important regional award for her work as the play opens) who lives in Portsmouth, Virginia with her husband, Drew. Jane has just learned that she's expecting a child, and she seems uneasy about that particular life change. More challenging for her is the presence in town right now of her old friend Meghan, who works for a large national agency in Los Angeles. When Jane learns that Meghan's company has landed an account she was hoping to win herself, her doubts about whether she's on the right path come to the fore. And when Meghan suggests that Jane should come work for her in LA, Jane reaches a crisis point. In a series of dream sequences, she works through her conflict.
For me, the main problem with the play revolves around Jane's career issue: in 2012, why does taking a job as an advertising copy-writer necessitate moving across the country? Surely with some internet and teleconferencing technology Jane could do almost all her work from Virginia. Plus, Meghan is presented (in the writing and by actress Susan Atwood) as an arrogant jerk. Why would Jane want to abandon her home to work for such a person?
I also had trouble buying that Jane was a brilliant ad-writer given the evidence we are shown in the play. Her big idea for the ad campaign for the account Meghan has won is a ripoff of a Reese's commercial from decades ago.
The dream sequences, a la Wizard of Oz, feature the characters we've already met in fanciful garb and form. So Meghan resurfaces as a Spanish nun, Drew as a monk and as Jane's childhood imaginary friend, and Edward, an actor working on an ad for Jane, as a '50s greaser named Frankie. These segments feel like they should be much lighter and funnier than they are here, and unfortunately the production design fails to differentiate the dreams from reality using color or light or alteration to the space. The play's conceit is that Jane passes from reality to her own strange wonderland via her bathroom closet, but nothing that remotely looks like a bathroom or a closet is shown on stage, which is confusing. (Also confusing to us working-class New Yorkers: the idea that a bathroom would have a closet!)
The four actors work hard, and Michael Mraz has some sweet, funny moments as Edward and Frankie, while Jason Liebman is always sympathetic and likeable as Drew. Elizabeth Audley, a very last-minute replacement in the cast, does an admirable job as Jane. Atwood has fun as the tyrannical medieval nun.
But overall, the play never successfully brought me into its world. Word is, though, that the two other items in Boomerang's current repertory—revivals of Much Ado About Nothing and The Real Thing—are more effective.