'Seascape' captures the harsh details of a relationship

Seascape With Sharks & Dancer Who Black Box Players Where 820 E. Genesee St. Syracuse When Through Nov. 3 Tickets Free with reservation Review by Josh Austin

If the ever-clichéd line “opposites attract” were true, it is beyond evident in Don Nigro’s Seascape With Sharks and Dancer, the first show for the Black Box Player’s season.

This play is a widely intimate, occasionally obnoxious, Groundhog’s Day view into a sordid relationship. This show is like watching a train wreck. The abusive relationship spirals as the two characters never learn, continually repeating the same mistakes. It’s two people who are either brimming with passion or so desperately lonely that they cannot give up on each other.

The play is a painstaking look at “honesty” in a hysterical relationship, and explores violence, insecurities, sex and patience. It’s an almost too meticulous look at what happens when crazy meets stoic.

Tracy (Sydney Patrick) swears that she was dancing in the ocean, only slightly losing consciousness before Ben (Keith Caram) rescues her. As the show starts and Tracy awakes, her pretentions shine as she yells out for service. The audience immediately sees how the entirety of the show will go—Ben obediently serving Tracy.

Patrick gives an interesting portrait of the damaged goods girl. Playing off the patient emotions of Ben, she knows when to be sexy, when to be obnoxious and when to be sincere. Though, most times, she’s just annoying, but that’s her baggage. Caram plays the cute, shy boy next door who is always the wallflower. He’s a writer who literally keeps his work in the fridge and finds Tracy captivating. His life is boring; hers is exciting, though ripping at the seams.

Tracy is tangibly fragile—but will prove at all costs that she is not, and that she can make her own decisions. Throughout the entire show she insults Ben, on everything. Tracy violently hurls an insult at Ben every time he does anything. Most importantly: She frequently calls him ineffectual. Which could be true. Patrick gives a disturbing portrait as the girl who could break, and does, at any second. She is badly scarred from something in her past—and it almost hurts to wonder.

Ben is disgustingly submissive. Tracy’s insults mean nothing to him as he grasps at somebody who is unlike anything he ever encountered before. He saved her life, she insults him and he loves her. The play passes through some amount of time where the two form a serious relationship. It’s hard to see an arc in these characters, but maybe they’re not supposed to grow.

Without giving up any spoilers, the text doesn’t make it too subtle that Tracy is often calling out for help, arguing for the sake of arguing and looking to remain comfortable, often screaming to be taken care of. It’s hard to feel bad for her not knowing her past; she is vicious to Ben. Throughout the show she continues to throw temper-tantrums right up until the very end, all while Ben sits still. If there is any change in Ben, it’s that maybe his fascination is gone. The fire and desire in his eyes for the wild personality of Tracy has vanished. She is exhausting.

Director David Siciliano cast a duo that work incredibly well together. He mounts scenes with tension and delivers intriguing staging. Set designer Leanna Barlow created a nice little home in Cape Cod. It’s rather empty, but quickly becomes a home; it’s simple yet used completely.

It may seem that Tracy needs Ben more than he needs her, but if anything, Ben needs Tracy much more. Without her, he might drown.