SEA MARKS -- At the Eisenhower Theater for four weeks.
He's a rugged Irish fisherman with a touch of the poet. She's an ex-farm girl who lives in Liverpool and loves it. Can two such disparate souls find happiness?
It's hard not to like "Sea Marks": its stars are attractive, work hard, and are frequently endearing. But the play is not a rouser, and the fault lies not with them but with Gardiner McKay, who puts those words in their mouths.
Colm Primrose and Timothea Stiles meet, briefly, at a weeding. He begins to write to her -- wonderful romantic letters, bursting with wild imagery and touches of old-fashioned stiltedness. "I hope that you do not think I am in any way trying to court you," he tells her early on. He is of course, whether he knows it or not. They correspond for two years.
Our rustic fisherman ends up in the city, where Timothea's publisher boss, no idiot he, has turned him into An Author -- of the rather prissily titled "Sea Sonnets." (What's a sonnet? Colm wants to know when he's shown the title.) Soon he's transformed into Liverpool's newest darling, "that primitive Irish poet of the sea," and is making the rounds of the ladies' clubs.
And, what do you know -- take him away from his beloved sea for a while and he loses his inspiration, the very thing that attracted him to her and made him what he is.
Here's where things fall apart. Timothea can't understand why he'd want to go back. For someone who appreciates such fine poetry, she seems to have no insight into his creative process. Seems to think he can produce on command.
"Sea Marks" is self-conscious play. In addition to the problem of predictability -- of course the damn fool's going to run out of inspiration in crowded, dirty Liverpool -- there's the problem of the material's just being too sweet. And as in any two-character play, the mannerisms of the players are magnified and spotlighted. Their brogues get on your nerves; she's too animated; his throaty chuckle grates.
Not really stirring, but not a total dud -- in fact, just about a C mark.