- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 4, 2002

"Sea Marks" takes its title from the lines left by high tide. Fittingly, MetroStage's revival of playwright Gardner McKay's sweet, doomed romance between an Irish fisherman and a divorced career woman also rises to an elevated level.

Anyone who has ever contemplated pulling up anchor on an established way of life and heading into uncharted waters to be with someone he or she loves will especially identify with the story of Colm and Timothea. The pair meet when Timothea, a native of Wales who lives in Liverpool, England, attends a wedding on Colm's island. Called the Heads, the place is primitive and dying.

Colm, played affectingly by Michael Tolaydo, describes himself as a "54-year-old spinster man." He thinks things should be done properly with a woman. He also knits and mends things. "We're quite confined here during the winter," he explains.

Mr. Tolaydo looks the role he's burly in his cable-knit sweater. He also conveys his character's Irishness and his passion for the sea.

He expresses his dismay when Timothea (Catherine Flye) can't see a boat on the horizon. "You don't have the eyes for it. You have city eyes," he declares.

Colm smokes his pipe, and Timothea tries to get rid of the smell with incense on a set that never changes, no matter where the play moves. A table, a bed and lamp furnish the room, with the sea and a sea wall serving as backdrops.

"It smells like the Catholic Church in here," Colm mutters.

Despite Colm's protestations that he has no need to leave his island, Timothea persuades him to come to stay with her in Liverpool. Before he does, he writes her many letters. His words are awash with his love of the sea.

Because the "Sea Marks" set doesn't change, the transition to Liverpool confuses a bit.

However, the transformation in Timothea is clear. Miss Frye effectively converts her character from the "lady" on the island to a woman on her home turf, where she works in publishing, with ambitions for herself and her talented, unworldly man.

Timothea informs Colm that she has collected his letters into a book called "Colm Primrose's Sea Sonnets." "Mr. Blackstone says not many people can coax words out like yours," she tells him, speaking of her boss.

"I would have called it 'Sea Marks,'" he responds.

Mr. Blackstone has invited them to dinner ("Mr. Blackstone was hoping you would see things here that would touch you. You could invent stories"), which the company's promotion man also will attend. He would like Colm to read his work at the Wednesday Morning Club.

Colm protests that he doesn't invent stories. "What you fancied in me was what you read in my soul, but my soul needs to breathe. It's been away from the water way too long, but I do love you."

In the meantime, he agonizes to the audience, "It's been two weeks, and I'm still here. She's a good woman, but what am I to do here? A city is for women. What is a man to do in the city?"

His father is left on the island to do Colm's work, and Colm also learns that his partner has drowned.

Timothea tells him she will not leave Liverpool. She is not young. She does not want to return to a "rough" life, like that of her childhood on a Welsh farm. She wishes to "rise," but she loves him.

and the letters resume.


WHAT: "Sea Marks"

WHERE: MetroStage, 1201 N. Royal St., Alexandria

WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays, through May 26



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