Albee himself directed the initial production of Seascape on 26 January 1975, at the Sam S. Shubert Theatre in New York City. This work depicts an aging couple who are accosted on a beach by a pair of intelligent lizard-like creatures that have been driven from the sea by the processes of evolution. The four characters discuss topics of mutual understanding, including the purpose of existence, before concurring that human and alien creatures should aid and inspire one another to shape the conditions of life.
Albee received his second Pulitzer Prize for Seascape. Although Walter Kerr found the play "predictable" and lacking dramatic energy and Stanley Kauffmann judged it "banal," many early reviewers commended its originality and—as several critics termed it—"exquisite" dialogue. Critical commentary on Seascape has focused on its analysis of existence, death, and the human spirit. Liam O. Purdom has viewed the play as a "treatise on human psychology," and Gerry McCarthy has seen it as a consideration of "the phenomenon we know as life and experience personally as existence." Lucinda P. Gabbard has read the play's "principal concern" as "the realization of the proximity of death," an awareness that Albee has gentled by means of the fairy tale form. Samuel J. Bernstein has argued that in Seascape Albee "has cast a broad, piercing light on the human condition" and revealed that love "is our only weapon against the void." Finally, Matthew C. Roudané has contended that in this play "Albee is not writing merely about the naturalistic evolution of the human species, but about growth patterns of humankind, about combining the visceral and the intellectual into a new whole which is the consciously aware person."
Clive Barnes (review date 27 January 1975)
SOURCE: "Albee's Seascape Is A Major Event," in The New York Times, 27 January 1975, p. 20.
[The critic praises nearly every aspect of Seascape in the following review, especially its blending of the comic and the serious.]
Hats off, and up in the air! A major dramatic event.
Edward Albee's play Seascape, which opened at the Shu-bert Theater last night, is fundamentally a play about life and resolution. It is that currently rare thing, a comedy rather than a farce, and it is a curiously compelling exploration into the basic tenets of life. It is asking in a light-hearted but heavy-minded fashion whether life is worth living. It decides that there is no alternative.
As Mr. Albee has matured as a playwright, his work has become leaner, sparer and simpler. He depends on strong theatrical strokes to attract the attention of the audience, but the tone of the writing is always thoughtful, even careful, even philosophic. As with any major artist he has his own distinct profile—an Albee play is recognizably an Albee play—but if he could usefully be linked with any of his contemporaries, they would be Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter.
The story is simplicity itself. A middle-aged couple, with children departed and obviously of independent means, find themselves...
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Lucina P. Gabbard (essay date 1978)
SOURCE: "Albee's Seascape: An Adult Fairy Tale," in Modern Drama, Vol. XXI, No. 3, September, 1978, pp. 307-17.
[The essay below asserts that Seascape is a fairy tale that treats the problem of the acceptance of death, offering "a message of wisdom and comfort presented in a fanciful style that allows people to sip only as much as they thirst for. "]
Edward Albee's Seascape is obviously not a realistic play. When the two great lizards slide onto the stage, behaving like ordinary married human beings and speaking perfect English, realism is immediately dispelled. Encounters between human beings and talking animals are the stuff of fairy tales. Bruno Bettelheim, in The Uses of Enchantment, describes a fairy tale as a work of art which teaches about inner problems1 through the language of symbols 2 and, therefore, communicates various depths of meaning to various levels of the personality at various times.3 This is the method of Seascape.
The play's principal concern is the realization of the proximity of death that comes with the passing of middle age. Albee depicts the adjustments that this realization entails, adjustments made difficult in the twentieth century by a tendency to deny mortality. Sigmund Freud spoke of this denial as an inner...
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Clurman, Harold. A review of Seascape. The Nation 220, No. 10 (15 March 1975): 314.
Asserts that Seascape is "light and cheerful. It is above all benevolent and, perhaps for the first time with Albee, rather charming."
Gussow, Mel. Interview with Albee. The New York Times (21 January 1975): 40.
Conversation in which Albee discusses the genesis and development of Seascape. This play, he states, is "the most difficult I've ever written. … Since the two people in the play are experiencing things that people have not experienced before, I didn't have any guide lines. With the other two characters, it was a problem getting their tone exactly right."
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