Forced by Katrina’s mounting flood waters, a long-married New Orleans couple takes refuge in the attic of their home in John Biguent’s “Rising Water.” In its Garden State premiere, the well-structured two-hander recalls incidents in the weathered lives of desperate survivors, and, although many questions remain unanswered, the piece offers an appealing and often compelling grasp of storytelling.
In an attic crowded with memories, Sug (Jim Ligon) assures his wife Camille (Beverly Sheehan) there’s “no way a storm could breach a levee.” Meanwhile, the discovery of a marriage gown causes them to remember a rainy wedding day, and old Mardi Gras costumes remind them of a drunken holiday celebration.
Sug tells a chilling ghost story in which the images of a sea captain’s deceased wife and daughter rise from the ocean floor, and another in which a father and son are trapped in a mosquito-infested swamp. But, as intriguing as these old tales are, they distract from the threatening matters at hand.
There are brief references to a deceased daughter, an estranged son and an abusive long-ago incident in their marriage, all of which are never fully explained. As the waters begin to splash into the attic, Sug dismantles a vent in the rooftop which Camille manages to squeeze through. It appears, however, that the opening may be too tight to accommodate Sug’s beefy frame.
Performances by Sheehan and Ligon are executed with spunk and clarity. Sheehan gives a subtle account of a mate who has harbored a few regrets through the years, while Ligon is blustery and garrulous.
Playwrights Theater a.d. John Pietrowski’s staging offers some well-paced suspense, instilling a foreboding atmosphere with the rising of the moon and the ominous sound of silence. Making keen use of the theater’s confined playing space, Drew Francis’ set design displays the shingled roof of a modest clapboard home that revolves to reveal a cluttered attic interior.