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Theatre / Seascape

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Maureen Anderman, Langella, and Kerr

Seascape is a 1975 play by Edward Albee.

Charlie and Nancy are a long-married couple on the verge of retirement, enjoying an afternoon on the beach. Nancy hits upon the idea of becoming nomads after they retire, moving around from beach to beach all over the world. Charlie, who is more set in his ways and more content to grow old in some Arizona retirement community or the like, dismisses this idea out of hand. This sets off an argument in which Charlie says he likes things the way they are, while Nancy says that she needs more challenges in her golden years. An increasingly irritated Nancy says that she once thought about cheating on Charlie years ago, when he seemed to lose interest in her sexually for a time.

Then the lizard people show up.

No, really. The rather ordinary argument between two old folks is interrupted by two lizard people who crawl up out of the ocean and meet Charlie and Nancy on the beach. The funny thing is that Leslie and Sarah, the lizard couple, are a lot like Charlie and Nancy, an old married couple with their own quirks and concerns. Although Leslie and Sarah speak English, they are unfamiliar with concepts like birds, and they cower with fright whenever an airplane zooms over the beach (the beach appears to be under a common flight path). Sparks fly as the four married people confront each other.

The original 1975 production featured Deborah Kerr as Nancy and Frank Langella as Leslie.


  • Acid Reflux Nightmare: When Leslie and Sarah first show up, Charlie thinks they're a hallucination brought on by bad liver paste sandwiches, and even wonders if he and Nancy are dead of food poisoning.
  • Fantastic Racism: Leslie hates fish, calling them dirty and stupid. Charlie is amused greatly by this, calling Leslie a bigot.
  • Fish People: Well, lizard people, but the principle is the same. Leslie and Sarah are scaly and green and they have tails, but they also walk upright.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Nancy says "I'd never push you," while she is very strongly pushing Charlie to accept her nomadic beachcomber idea.
  • Literal Metaphor: Nancy is talking about many years ago when Charlie seemed to have lost interest in her and she contemplated an affair. She recounts lying in bed one night looking at the moles on his back while she thought about it.
    Nancy: But I thought: well, if he can turn his back on me like this—nice isn't it, when the real and the figurative come together...
  • Lizard Folk: The two humans idly chatting on the beach are startled when two anthropomorphic, English-speaking lizard folk crawl out of the sea.
  • Phallic Weapon: Charlie, desperate to protect himself, picks up a stick some eighteen inches long. He is ill at ease when Leslie picks up a four-foot log.
    Nancy: Now that's an impressive stick.
  • Real Time: There is no indication of any time skip.
  • Re-Cut: The original version of the play, as seen during tryouts in Baltimore and in a 1975 European run, had three acts, with a second act set underwater. When the play debuted on Broadway it was cut down to two acts. In 2008 the original three-act version finally debuted in Boston.
  • Speech-Centric Work: As with most of Albee's work, it's a relatively small cast of characters, talking to each other.
  • Urban Fantasy: What seems like a pretty ordinary discussion between an old married couple is interrupted by the appearance of two fish people.
  • What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: When trying to explain the human parent-child relationship to aquatic lizard people who lay eggs by the hundreds, Charlie says "We love them." A nonplussed Leslie can only say "Explain."