This is a detective story without a detective. Or said differently, this is a story in which the role of detective is passed from character to character like a baton. Winning the race is finding out the truth.
The curtain rises on the kitchen of a well-to-do household in Ireland. As in many of our homes today, much of the discussion takes place in this room. But people keep making statements by disappearing at high moments of drama, and we are made to feel that some seminal event that darkly directs the action may also have taken place out of sight. Cleverly, part of the set transforms into a woodshed in the shadows as we go deeper into the play.
In yet another world premiere at NJ Rep Company, The Seedbed opens on a married couple about to celebrate their anniversary of 17 years. The husband has an interest in birds, and the wife has brought him a present of two rare and beautiful specimens, male and female, but we sense that as important as the birds are to the story so is the fact that they are housed in a cage.
The couple is anticipating a visit from their daughter and her significant other. The girl is the woman’s daughter; this is a second marriage; the husband is a step-father. The wife expresses consternation over this pending visit and we immediately wonder why.
The next clue that captures our attention occurs minutes after the girl arrives. She enters the house alone; she has asked her companion to wait outside. In the kitchen with her step-father only, she removes her coat to reveal a dark green dress which he worriedly and quickly asks her to cover back up. At that moment, the wife enters the room, and has absolutely no reaction to what the girl is wearing. It’s then that we realize that we are being enlisted as detectives, and soon enough that our clues will be strewn through the rich verbal exchanges, gestures and attitudes of the characters as they unfold before us.
The boyfriend, who owns a florist shop, is significantly older than the girl and this seems to be a clue. They are moving to faraway Holland to live and this seems to be a clue. They are in an incredible hurry to get married and this seems to be a clue. Suddenly everything seems to be a clue — what they say, what they don’t say — and we are left to put it all together.
Excellent direction, once again, from SuZanne Barabas. Powerful performances from Kevin Hogan as Thomas, the step-father; Gina Costigan as Hannah, the mother; Michael Lewis Serafin-Wells as Mick, the fiance; and last but in no way least, Cathryn Wake as Maggie, the daughter.
By Brian Delaney; directed by SuZanne Barabas; assistant director, Adam Fitzgerald; scenic designer, Jessica Parks; lighting designer, Jill Nagle; sound designer, Merek Royce Press ; technical director, Brian Snyder; costume designer, Patricia E. Doherty; stage manager, Jennifer Tardibuono; executive producer, Gabe Barabas.
With: Gina Costigan; Kevin Hogan; Michael Lewis Serafin-Wells; Cathryn Wake.
At NJ Repertory Company (179 Broadway, Long Branch, NJ — 732-229-3166; NJRep.org) through November 15. Thursdays & Fridays 8pm; Saturdays 3pm & 8pm; Sundays at 2pm.