Even the biggest dragons can be slain if you have someone fighting with you.
We Live By The Sea, a creation of the multiple award-winning Patch Of Blue theater company and director Alex Haworth, now playing at 59E59 Theaters, is a deeply heartfelt and achingly lovely play, and you only have a very short time left to see it. Make the effort; you won’t be sorry.
Sea is the story of fifteen-year-old Katy, her 18-year-old sister Hannah, her imaginary best friend, a dog called Paul Williams, and their new neighbor Ryan. The story is brilliant — hilarious and heartbreaking all at once — but in the small, intimate theater you’ll witness one incredibly courageous and truthful performance by young Alexandra Brain. Her turn as Katy is truly awe-inspiring, not least because to physically embody her character, Brain must spend a solid 90 minutes exhibiting the many mannerisms characteristic of someone who lives deep on the autistic spectrum.
Katy is always in motion, whether rocking or wringing her hands or dancing with Paul Williams. Though sometimes, when it all gets to be too much, she absolutely batters herself, pulling hair and slapping her head, a seething energy bubbling up and threatening to explode.
Alexandra Brain and Lizzie Grace
Hannah is the calm to Katy’s storm. Alexandra Simonet’s performance is understated, the character awkward as only eighteen-year-olds can be, and she carries herself as if the weight on her shoulders is that of the world itself. And considering the position Hannah’s in, that isn’t far from the truth. To imagine a life such as hers where a simple hug, a thing most of us crave, the most basic of comforts, would cause her sister a torment of agony. So she holds back, holds her breath, holds it all in. Until Ryan.
Alexandra Brain and Tom Coliandris
Played by Tom Coliandris, Ryan is also an awkward eighteen-year-old but his burden of memory bears a guilt that makes him averse to anything that isn’t real and true. He just can’t deal with BS right now, as he repeats time an again. But Katy and Hannah, they are very, very real. It pains Katy for anyone to be anything else, so they live lives of utmost fact. With one exception: the fabulously imaginative imaginary Paul Williams, an invisible mutt played by Lizzie Grade. Hers is the closest insight into what it’s like inside Katy’s exceptional (and exceptionally kind) mind, but being as she’s 100% not actually there, it can all be taken with a grain of salt.
Alexandra Simonet and Tom Coliandris
With little in the way of props or stage design, or even stage — but a lot of value added by an excellent pair of accompanists, Josh Flowers and Julianna Zachariou — the quartet create a beautiful magic in their little seaside lives. What they find with each other is a definition of family that goes beyond blood, delves even deeper than genes. They find understanding. And how rare is that, to find someone who sees everything you are and accepts it all, whether it’s difficult or not.
The script is a scramble of overlapping lines, with characters talking over and around each other throughout. The performance and direction of it, however, looks so easy and so natural at times that of course it must have been incredibly difficult to get just right. But right it is, remarkably so, from the thrice-tapped tops of the audience’s shoes all the way down to the bottom of its enormous heart. There aren’t many plays like this, and its time in New York is fleeting, so take the plunge as soon as you can. There’s magic in the Sea.
Photos: Kate Pardey
Opening Photo: Alexandra Brain