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A CurtainUp Review
In The Secret Sea

I carried Kenny in my "sea."— Joyce
Your "secret sea. Those were his exact words. The doctor called your womb "the secret sea". . . in all its wonder and mystery. Nine months of floating. — Gil
In The Secret Sea
Glynnis O'Connor and Paul Carlin Photo Credit
Cate Ryan's new family drama, In the Secret Sea, runs just 90 minutes. That's very little time to set up the life and death problem situation affecting her characters: two middle-aged couples related through the marriage of their children, only one of whom we ever see. And so she does. That's even though it means stuffing the plot with past as well as current problems and conveniently having them all include parenting dilemmas and play out on Easter Sunday, the holiday that symbolizes new life.

The scenario unfolds in the comfortable Connecticut home of long time marrieds Joyce and Gil (Glynnis O'Connor and Paul Carlin). The occasion is a pending Easter dinner they're hosting for their son Kenny (Adam Petherbridge), his pregnant wife Gail (never seen) and her parents Audrey and Jack (Shelly Burch abd Malachy Cleary).

It doesn't take more than a few minutes after Joyce and Gil return home from church for us to realize that this family is, true to the family drama genre, dysfunctional. The church service has left Gil less than spiritually uplifted as well as unhappy about the state of his marriage. While Joyce seems satisfied with their life, we learn that she's not terribly fond of her daughter-in-law or her parents.

Under Martin Charnin's pacey direction, the couple's various marital issues are unpacked just in time for the unexpected solo arrival of their son who clearly is not a happy daddy to be. And with good reason! The news he's just received and is now sharing with them couldn't be worse. It's no overstatement to call it a matter of life and death.

According to Kenny the other eager grandparents-to-be are still unaware of the situation. Consequently, Joyce and Gil gamely agree to pretend nothing terrible is happening, at least for the rest of the dinner. But, you'll be right to guess that the pretend "all's well" Easter celebration will unravel shortly after Audrey and Jack's arrival.

Of course, the in-laws also know what's happening. And of course, the rest of the play is pretty much a debate about how to deal with a situation no family should ever have to face. Oh, and yes, Audrey and Jack have their own past history to intensify the poignancy and pain of the issue that the five characters we see, and the one we only hear about, have to address.

The actors do their best to downplay the sense that we are watching a debate about marriage, parenthood and the bad deck of cards we're sometimes dealt. The producing company, Weillington Road LLC, has supported the production with an excellent design team. Ms. Ryan Ms. Ryan doesn't dish up a facile happy ending and the finale she has devised is eloquently heart-felt. She's also written some good dialogue. However, the top heavy plot with its too convenient details left me wondering if In the Secret Sea wouldn't work better as a documentary.

In The Secret Sea by Cate Ryan
Directed by Martin Charnin Cast: Shelly Burch (Audrey), Paul Carlin (Gil), Malachy Cleary (Jack), Glynnis O?Connor (Joyce), Adam Petherbridge (Kenny)
Scenery: Beowulf Borritt and Alexis Distler
Lighting: Ken Billington
Costumes: Suzy Benzinger
Stage Manager: William H. Lang
Running Time: 90 minutes, no intermission
The Beckett Theatre on Theatre Row 410 West 42nd Street
From 4/15/16; opening 4/21/16; closing 5/21/16. Tuesdays at 7PM; Wednesdays-Saturdays at 8PM; matinees on Saturdays at 2PM and Sundays at 3PM.
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer at 4/19/16 press preview
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