A puzzle can come in the form of a game, a riddle and sometimes a play. Lee Blessing’s cryptic puzzle play, “A Body of Water,” will take the stage from Nov. 3 to Nov. 6 in Studio B. The student project is a part of the department’s Studio Season.
When couple Moss and Avis, played by Spencer Rosner, a junior majoring in mathematics, and Stephanie Herlihy, a senior majoring in psychology, wake up in a beach house with no recollection of who or where they are, panic and confusion ensues. The situation is worsened when a girl named Wren, played by Stephanie Moreno, a junior majoring in theatre, enters the house bringing a mix of stories regarding who she is and what happened to the couple.
First, she says she is a lawyer representing the couple against accusations of murdering their own 11-year-old daughter. Then, the story changes to the couple having some form of amnesia and Wren is their daughter, toying with the couple and taking advantage of their vulnerability. It isn’t clear what the truth is, as both the audience and characters question Wren’s words and their own beliefs.
Directed by Chelsea French, a second-year graduate student studying theatre, the cast and crew of the play create a suspenseful atmosphere that strings the audience along through the struggles of the protagonists.
“I wanted the audience to feel what Moss and Avis are feeling throughout the play,” French said.
Audience members are placed in the same position as Moss and Avis; they are clueless to the truth and simply do not know what to believe or who to trust. Like the two characters, concern, anxiety and questions fill the heads of those watching. Are the protagonists truly guilty, or are they victims of a sick game perpetrated by someone who may or may not be their daughter?
Rosner and Herlihy have an angry desperation in their voices as their characters beg Wren for answers to these questions throughout the play. Moreno gives Wren a stubborn and condescending attitude in response, reversing the typical parental power balance and asserting herself as dominant over this couple.
The performances of the actors convey the strained, yet intimate, dynamic between the characters.
“Since the characters basically have to meet each other for the first time, three times during the play, the connections that form between them are very strong,” Rosner said.
The three actors, who make up the entire cast, are able to become these characters despite the mystery surrounding their backgrounds.
“There’s lots of missing pieces that we have to fill in for the audience,” Herlihy said. “It’s a very unique play.”
Those missing pieces are what keep the audience guessing. Despite the ambiguities central to the show, there is one idea presented that can be known for certain: Time, life and even memories are forever fleeting.
According to French, the play focuses on how we experience our own memories.
“[It] plays with this idea of memory, and how your memory forms your identity and what happens when those memories aren’t there,” French said.