In Burning Coal Theatre Company’s Sea Wall, actor Joey Heyworth plumbs unfathomable depths | Theater | Indy Week
Pin It

In Burning Coal Theatre Company’s Sea Wall, actor Joey Heyworth plumbs unfathomable depths 

It’s a beginning actor’s exercise: Say the words “I love you” like you would to the love of your life. Then, imagine they’ve just given you a million dollars, and say the words again. Now repeat the phrase as if they’ve just played an embarrassing practical joke on you. Next, imagine they’ve just told you they’re leaving you, for good. You didn’t see it coming. Say “I love you” again.

We tend to forget that words are dials; depending on the situation, they can be spun in any number of emotional directions. I’m still mulling over the spin—the subtext—that director Elizabeth London and actor Joey Heyworth came up with for two lines in Sea Wall, the first in a trilogy of one-act dramas that Burning Coal Theatre Company presents in rotating repertory this month.

Here’s the first phrase: “People like me. They think I’m gentle.” The words could be spoken by someone who’s fooled the world—or, maybe, just himself. They can convey disillusionment or real menace. The second phrase, “I think we will,” could show bravado, arrogance, optimism—or doubt, should you emphasize the word “think.”

Both are hinge moments in this play, and I’ve managed to disclose them without giving away anything about the character or the plot. It doesn’t spoil things, either, to note that Simon Stephens’ finely textured solo show has to do with a loss. It’s one that Alex, a photographer who provides our only window on this theatrical world, experiences, and ultimately compares to the edge of an abyss in the seas just off the coast of Europe.

But what Stephen’s script (as well as London’s and Heyworth’s interpretation) underscores is an incisive analogue to the acting game above. In Sea Wall, it’s the character’s reactions to events that help determine their final meaning—and those meanings may not be the first or even second ones to come to mind.

We’ve seen Stephens’ work before, not only in the region but also in this room. The Distillery produced his controversial drama, Pornography, for Burning Coal’s second stage in 2011. Divorced from the politics of that earlier work, Stephens has a good ear for the elliptical currents of conversation, and the eddies and dead ends of particularly treacherous memories.

For acting and directing students, Heyworth and London’s nimble—and, occasionally, enigmatic—choices keep us wondering what the nature of the loss is, and what aftermath awaits. Heyworth navigates these emotional depths with clear ability.

Unfortunately, the payoff in this 45-minute exercise seems a little skimpy to justify its presentation as the only work in an evening. Still, you’ll likely be debating the final outcome for at least as long as I’ve been. The story isn’t over when the play is.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Theater



Twitter Activity

Comments

your 20 sept review of playmakers current offering missed the boat, big time. the play portrayed all the characters as …

by Pointyhead on The Cake Edits Reality to Ignore the Everyday Consequences of Bible Belt Homophobia (Theater)

Oh, I'd be amused even without the in-jokes. These folks are having a great time, and the setting is transportive. …

by needsomeokra on Wants Upon a Time Is a Commedia Dell'arte Interrogation of What Happily Ever After Really Means (Theater)

Most Recent Comments

your 20 sept review of playmakers current offering missed the boat, big time. the play portrayed all the characters as …

by Pointyhead on The Cake Edits Reality to Ignore the Everyday Consequences of Bible Belt Homophobia (Theater)

Oh, I'd be amused even without the in-jokes. These folks are having a great time, and the setting is transportive. …

by needsomeokra on Wants Upon a Time Is a Commedia Dell'arte Interrogation of What Happily Ever After Really Means (Theater)

The photo credit is incorrect. The photo was taken and edited by Areon Mobasher for Burning Coal Theatre Company. Please …

by Areon Mobasher on The Greeks Streamlines Sophocles’s Theban Trilogy Into Three Nimble, Strikingly Modern One-Acts (Theater)

I'm wondering why Dorfman specifically chose the Death and the Maiden quartet - deriving from the song Der Tod und …

by trishmapow on Forgiving is not forgetting in Ariel Dorfman's Death and the Maiden (Theater)

© 2017 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation