Player’s Theatre’s mounting of The American Dream and The Sandbox, both written by Edward Albee and now directed by Dan Beresh, leave you with an urge to run to your grandma to see if the world is really as it appears.
Constructed by Alex Rivers, the production’s striking set instantly throws you into a world where appearances are struggling to be maintained. The blue and gold floor tiles are jagged around the edges, the fireplace is boarded up, the window hangs crooked, and the johnny (the toilet) still hasn’t been fixed in what otherwise appears as an expensive home. All of this is contrasted by a straight line of bare, low-hanging incandescent bulbs that shed light on Mommy and Daddy’s eerily dark past.
Mommy and Daddy had a “bumble” of joy (or bundle, perhaps?) once, but it was defective, and finally died, so they have to buy a new one.
The American Dream begins as the couple are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Mrs. Barker, played by the ever-energetic Maija Whitney. Unfortunately, she has no idea what sort of business brings her to the apartment, but after a little hinting and a lot of cunning from Grandma she successfully delivers a new bumble – the “clean-cut, Midwest farm boy type” young man played flawlessly by Cory Lipman. Needless to say, he fully fits Mommy’s requirements.
While both plays on the bill are immensely satisfying (for the audience – the characters make very clear that they receive little satisfaction these days), it is The Sandbox that really fulfils all the promises of what Beresh refers to as his “absurd, post-modernist, post-structuralist baby.”
Written by Albee in the midst of completing The American Dream, Mommy, Daddy, Grandma, and The American Dream all make a return for Grandma’s final moments of life at the “beach.”
Lasting only about 10 minutes, The Sandbox provides a concise portrait of the family it took so long to uncover in The American Dream, thanks to the characters’ many pretences. Unlike the first play, in which there are very few breaks from tightly phrased dialogue (leaving the audience begging for a moment to catch their breath from spending the entire play begging for logical coherency), The Sandbox is perfectly paced and provides ample opportunity to appreciate its near-cinematic staging.
Not to mention the added perk of Claire Stewart-Kanigan’s cello playing whenever Grandma allows it.
The entire cast gives an impressive performance. Gabriela Petrov as Mommy perfectly assumes Albee’s critiques of material society with her insistence on a beige hat over a wheat one, and though occasionally lacking engagement with the other characters, Charles-Adam Foster-Simard as Daddy succeeds at constantly straddling the line between in-control husband and Mommy’s doormat.
Rebecca Gibian’s performance of Grandma is particularly notable. Her character fills the apartment with an all-knowing, prescient presence even when simply watching Mommy and Daddy from her chair in the back corner of the stage.
Albee’s world may be a confusing and critical one, but I highly recommend that you “Come in. Take off your dress, and get comfortable.”