Walking into the venue for Cabinet of Curiosity's “Sea Change”, a feeling of familial intimacy might wash over you. Metal chairs that anyone might find in storage are arranged in rows and create makeshift aisles in a gravel parking lot. Standing speakers blast the calls of seagulls, the crashing of waves, and the rollings of thunder as audience members search for whatever empty seats were left. Performers, stagehands and other staff hustle around the hulking ship set making last minute preparations. It feels like cousins and other distant relatives had called all members of the family to report to the backyard to witness a play or musical number they'd been practicing all day. In a word, it feels like home.
It is a strange sensation at first, after a year and a half of social distancing, mask-wearing, and general distrusting of anyone outside of your personal bubble. But, quickly, you find yourself swept into the comforting power of the ocean and the stories that have been desperately waiting to be told.
“Sea Change” tells multiple of those stories, all written by an emerging collective of female playwrights and lyricists. With the support of Cabinet of Curiosity, a non profit theatre company that specializes in puppetry and other engineering feats, oceanic aesthetics and an overall exploration of the feminine divine bind the narratives into a single, incredible production.
Much of it feels like an abstract dream, where you know you're on the verge of an incredible revelation and that in itself is a sort of revelation. A mermaid puppet grapples with an existence shaped by the fantasies and excuses of men. A shark wishes to escape the brutalities of a feeding frenzy and asks "The Moon" for advice. A whale attempts to provoke a man lost at sea into hunting her, egging him on as he himself searches for an awakening of some sort. Though one might easily get lost in the visuals, threads of messaging on hope and despair, finding purpose, and destroying harmful cycles are found within the wild pageantry.
Playwrights Liz Chidester, Kasey Foster, Bethany Thomas, Lindsey Noel Whiting and Seth Bockley know exactly how to make their messaging land, despite the inherent complexities of understanding human nature and femininity. They do it with a sense of humor that doesn't feel forced, but natural to how it might manifest in our everyday conundrums and conflicts. You're able to take part in that, to truly feel the power of their writing, when you are made part of the "ocean" yourself, with puppet jellyfish floating above your head and water sprays to the face. The experience is tangible, even though you remain a safe distance away from the action.
The original music compositions of Manae Hammond and Charlie Otto, too, deserve praise and recognition. “Sea Change's” musical pieces were moving, catchy and delivered in ways that truly displayed the talent and passion of the musicians performing them.
“Sea Change” gives its audience a live experience that combines professional artistry and comfortable closeness. The closeness and intimacy of the show reigns especially important in this moment, when people remain more and more skeptical of one another. Cabinet of Curiosity asks you to set aside the tension of the pandemic, just for an hour or so, to ride out the wave of “Sea Change.”
To purchase tickets for “Sea Change” and learn more, visit the Cabinet of Curiosity website.