Tina Howeâs âSinging Beach,â produced by Theater 167 at Here, needs a lifeguard. While it returns to themes and situations she has movingly explored in other works, this sometimes absurdist play about a family in crisis splashes and thrashes under Ari Laura Kreithâs direction. It goes under almost from the get-go.
As the play opens, Merrie (Erin Beirnard), a novelist, has reluctantly agreed to move her father, the poet Ashton Sleeper (Tuck Milligan), into an assisted-living facility. As Merrie and her family pack away his things, a Category 4 hurricane looms. All is chaos â domestic, meteorological â so Merrieâs daughter, 10-year-old Piper (Elodie Lucinda Morss), retreats into reverie. Inspired by stories of the ocean liners her grandparents once traveled on, she whittles a little wooden boat, the S.S. Pegasus, and constructs an elaborate daydream in which she and her grandfather escape to a life of onboard ice skating, dinner at the captainâs table and no known Norovirus outbreaks. Ah, fantasy.
Ms. Howe has paddled in these waters before. In her lyrical and mournful 1997 play, âPrideâs Crossing,â Singing Beach makes a cameo as the locale for a proposed moonlit swim. And in the 1986 romantic comedy âCoastal Disturbances,â an older couple remember lugging a beach umbrella there. For Ms. Howe, the ocean waters promise release, a chance for her buttoned-up New England characters to loose themselves from their lives, if only for the length of a summer plunge.
Here, the sea again offers a reprieve, but neither the make-believe scenes aboard the S.S. Pegasus nor the more realistic ones set on the…