Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic
Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic

Love is what all humans need whether they know it or not.

Love is a powerful, addictive emotion that manifests itself in various forms: Love of life, love of family, love of work; it’s what makes us human beings. The trick is to recognize it when it comes along.

The Groves Cabin Theatre is currently presenting a drama that coalesces around that most elusive of all human experiences – love. “The Sea Horse” written by Edward J. Moore, is solidly directed by Abe Daniels and stars Rebecca Havely and Scott Cutler as two ‘damaged and scarred’ people trying to come to grips with their pasts in order to make a future together.

ImageThe tale of “The Sea Horse” – also the name of the waterfront bar where the play takes place – delves into a complex love story which is both tender and ribald at the same time. It might even be characterized as a romance play between two people on the lower end of the economic scale. A life at sea or in a waterfront bar is no Park Avenue experience. It’s a peek into a world of characters normally not on mainstream America’s radar screens. But everyone has a story to tell and itinerant seaman Harry Bales, winningly played by Scott Cutler and Sea Horse bar owner Gertrude Blum, in an astonishingly portrayal by Rebecca Havely are no exceptions. Havely normally tackles light comedy roles, but is a revelation as the crusty, rough-edged, ‘baggage-laden’ bar owner ‘two-ton Gerty’, as Harry s seafaring mates refer to her.

The play, as written by Moore, is a somewhat loose and messy affair when it comes to crafting their story into a stage play. Amid the grit and grime of the setting, Harry reveals a sort of a poetic and poignant side when it comes to wooing Gert in his quest to marry her. He fancies himself as quite a stud. However, Gert, is wary and gun-shy when it comes to men and marriage; having been physically and verbally abused by her ex-husband as a teenaged bride. Once bitten, twice shy, is her motto. This is a play where the performances and on-stage chemistry of actors Havely and Cutler exceed the substance of the narrative by playwright Moore.

A great deal of why this production works so well is due to director Daniels. As a actor himself, he is on the wavelength of his two stars. Together they breathe life into a somewhat pedestrian yarn. The Groves Cabin Theatre performance space is the size of a postage stamp. The front row seats are a mere three feet from the actors at times. Clever ‘traffic management’ by director Daniels, however, draws one into this quirky love story which ultimately fully engages its audience thanks to its two fine actors.

The set design and decorations by Dave Jessup, Doug Thompson, and the crew is one of the best-looking set designs at the Groves I’ve seen in many productions. Sharon Noble’s costume designs provide the right look, but I would have thought a gray, grungy-looking, and rumpled undershirt would better suit Harry than a crisp, new looking white T-shirt. Military guys in the audience also will like that spot-on, travel-worn seaman’s duffle bag. Perhaps, Gert needs to ‘dirty up” those trousers as well. Harry references her waterfront bar look a couple of times during the play. After all these two characters are not fashion plates… just sayin’.

“The Sea Horse” at the Groves Cabin Theatre performs on Saturdays at 7 pm and on Sundays at 2:30 PM through March 20th. With just 22 seats reservations are a must. Call the box office at 760-365-4523.