“Pool (No Water)” a provocative production by Creative License

“Pool (No Water)” a provocative production by Creative License

The artistic world is a fascinating place to investigate. From the outside looking in, it’s a creative mystery, glamorous and complex; from the inside, it’s far less glamorous most of the time than one might think and a lot of hard work. We enter this world in Pool (No Water)and find a group of people who we may not like much – perhaps because they’re more like us than we’d like to admit.

Marquis Heath, Sierra Lynch, Steve Maggio and Josy Smith play four unnamed artists who aren’t overly successful. Their (again, unnamed, and never seen, although sometimes portrayed by all four actors in chorus or Smith at times) friend, who used to be part of the group, has found critical success; although they all pretend to still care for her, they’re deeply envious of and even angry with how far she’s come. She invites them over to use her pool; after an evening of drinking and reminiscing, the friend is involved in a serious accident. The group’s first impulse isn’t to help her, but to look at the catastrophe as an art installation – then to think: what if they could use the tragedy to further their careers?

The play, written by Mark Ravenhill and directed by Aaron Holbritter, is an interesting one; according to Holbritter’s Director’s Notes, it’s written without names for the actors and it’s up to the production team how many people (and of what age, gender and race) to cast. It’s not often a show is this flexible, and it gives everyone a lot of freedom.

Holbritter and crew chose to set the piece in various art galleries, tying in the art theme (it was produced in June in the Albany Center Gallery and will, for the final performance, move to the Electric City Barn in Schenectady) – special kudos for continuing the unconventional theater space movement. They’ve also made a short film shown before the production talking about various themes present in the play with local artists, localizing it.

The actors’ work has highs and lows. Heath does well, but needs to speak either a bit more slowly, clearly or loudly as some of his words (which I very much wanted to hear) were lost (this may be a function of the space itself); Lynch was also solid throughout but some of her words were lost, as well, mostly when things grew frantic and she began speaking too quickly. Smith and Maggio made the clearest character choices: Maggio the dour, bitter, angry person there always seems to be one of in every group, and Smith as the eternally cheerful one you know is going to explode someday. Smith has such passion, which is a joy to watch, but needs to work on making her facial expressions less broad.

This is a production you’ll be thinking about long after you leave, for a number of reasons, and is well worth your time – it’s innovative, fresh and intelligent and very much unlike anything I’ve seen before.

“Pool (No Water)”; Creative License, The Arts Center of the Capital Region, 265 River Street, Troy; one more performance Sept. 29 at Electric City Barn, 400 Craig St., Schenectady; $10; Run time: 70 minutes; (518) 618-2996,

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