Introduction

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Seascape

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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.

CRITICAL RECEPTION

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."

Production Reviews

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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 on a beach. They discuss, in the desultory fashion of old and friendly lovers, love, marriage and life. She paints, he snoozes. What has it all added up to? Eventually they are met by another middle-aged couple. The second couple happens to be lizards.

The lizards are deep-sea creatures at a very advanced stage of evolution who have decided to come up into the air. It is very nearly a foolish trick on the playwright's part. After all, anthropomorphic monsters from the nether depths, who wear scales but talk English in a stilted accent, should by all the rules of the game be childish. But plays have a happy way of not having rules.

What Mr. Albee has...

(The entire section contains 33145 words.)

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