Culture Vulture: High Marks for ‘Sea Marks’

Sea Marks at Shakespeare & Company

Performers Walton Wilson and Kristin Wold are wonderful in Sea Marks at Shakespeare & Company.

By Helen Epstein

Perhaps a director’s most important choice is sifting through the great backlist of dramatic literature and choosing a play whose sensibility she not only wishes to explore and inhabit, but that she can cast and direct well. When the play, the director and design team, the actors, and historical moment all line up, the result can be as magical as Daniela Varon’s production of Sea Marks by the late Gardner McKay at Shakespeare & Company running through September 4.

Gardner McKay was an unusual playwright: he’s best known, among boomers, as a heart-throb Hollywood and television actor. From an early age, he took serious interest in writing and sailing—two passions he pursued for most of his adult life. Sea Marks is a partly epistolary romance between Colm Primrose, an Irish fisherman who lives by the sea, and Timothea Stiles, an assistant in a British publishing company. McKay wrote it in 1971, when it enjoyed a modest success. Director Daniela Varon saw it some 20 years ago, and it remained so alive in her memory that she chose to direct it in 2010.

Varon says that the dizzying pace of contemporary life was one of the factors that drew her to this two-character play in which “the hand-written and hand-carried word has the power to bridge oceans and change lives.” With set and costumes by Kiki Smith and two wonderful performances by Shakespeare & Company veterans Walton Wilson and Kristin Wold, this is theater you’ll be sorry to miss.

Helen Epstein is the author of Joe Papp and two pieces about Shakespeare & Company that you can download from the Kindle by clicking here Helen recently spoke to the Lexington Minuteman about the art of the memoir.

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