by John Stoehr
If you haven't seen Low Tide Hotel, go. Go now. Get your tickets. Then go. You won't regret it. Low Tide is the brainchild of Happenstance Theater, a company out of Rockville, Maryland. It's a whimsical, funny, and nostalgic pastiche of poetry, song, and music set in the 1920s, the golden age of travel between the wars. All the scraps of cultural flotsam and jetsam are inspired by the ocean and the company's memories of it.
There's no story, per se, just a charming concatenation of bits of memory, verse, and sound. Low Tide Hotel is performed by Mark Jaster, Sabrina Mandell (pictured above at Basil), and Scott Sedar, who also sing and pantomime the script. A sea shanty joins a sonnet by Neruda and a song by the Police, which lead to readings of Moby Dick and Odysseus, which give way to a rendition of "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean" performed on a hand saw.
The text is literate but never studious. It feels natural and fizzy and adorable, though at times I felt a little unmoored as the trio shifted from number to number. Even so, that feeling of being adrift, like floating in the ocean on a hot day, was so pleasant and free. I was never in danger of being completely lost. I was in good hands. Perhaps the effect of stitching these disparate threads together was ambiguity was part of Low Tide Hotel's surreal charm. And anyway, it faded away like morning fog over water.
Conceit meets execution meets emotional pay off. Low Tide Hotel is a perfect gem.