Sea marks, explains Irish fisherman Colm Primrose, are the lines made on the shore by the tide when it's high, as a sign that it will be coming back.
Primrose is one of the two characters in "Sea Marks," a play by Gardner McKay that's being performed weekends at the Arts Council Center in Thousand Oaks. It's a warmhearted, intelligent and often funny work, wonderfully staged and performed, and recommended without reservation.
The play begins with Colm writing a letter to Timothea Stiles. He met her some time ago at a wedding and can't get her out of his mind. Colm, a lifelong bachelor who has never left his insular island community, isn't sure where he wants this correspondence to lead.
Timothea is a Welsh woman who daringly struck out on her own and holds down a job she enjoys in relatively cosmopolitan Liverpool. She believes that she couldn't have less in common with Colm, whom she remembers barely, if at all. Yet, she finds his letters fascinating.
A relationship begins, and builds to an inevitable conclusion. Yet the play is full of surprising plot twists, with both Colm and Timothea remaining true to themselves while exposing some larger notions about art, integrity and personal identity.
Produced in Hollywood and off-Broadway in years past, "Sea Marks" is currently restricted by its publisher from performances by community theater groups. Through the efforts of director David Ralphe and actor Richard Fullerton, who plays Colm, McKay was persuaded to allow this production by the Performing Arts Guild.
Both Fullerton and Lindsay V. Jones, who plays Timothea, are professional actors with a lengthy list of film and television credits. Locals might remember Jones as the tragic protagonist of last year's excellent "Last Summer at Bluefish Cove" by the Performing Arts Guild. Ralphe, a drama coach and artistic director of the guild, is also the director of the current production of Agatha Christie's "The Spider's Web" at the Santa Paula Theater Center.
Technical credits are above average, with the atmospheric sound effects ("designed" by Fullerton, operated by Sherril Palombo-Carroll) and incidental music particularly noteworthy.
Performed under a special developmental theater arrangement with Actors' Equity and staged in the tiny--30 seats or so--Arts Council Theater, "Sea Marks" is as fine a drama as local theatergoers are likely to see.
Playwright McKay reportedly has a sequel finished and the third installment of an intended trilogy in the works, and director Ralphe says he would like to bring "Sea Marks" to a larger theater. More power to 'em all.
* WHERE AND WHEN
"Sea Marks" continues Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. through June 23 at the Arts Council Center, 482 Greenmeadow Drive, in Thousand Oaks. Tickets are $9 for adults; $6 for students and seniors. Due to the theater's limited seating, reservations are essential. Call (818) 701-6142.