Love must be blind. How else to explain Rattlestick’s infatuation with “A Summer Day,” a peculiar piece by Jon Fosse that returns Karen Allen, beloved heroine of Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones movies, to her stage roots? Of all involved, the truly smitten person appears to be Sarah Cameron Sunde, translator and helmer of four plays by this Norwegian scribe, who writes in a languid poetic idiom that is mind-numbing. But the love-sickness also got to Allen, taking the role of a woman who keeps re-playing in her mind the long-ago summer day when her husband disappeared at sea.
Big-eyed and full of smiles (despite being forced to wear a hideous print dress over cute stovepipe pants), Samantha Soule is perfectly lovely as the young wife who stands at a window of her pretty white house watching her husband (McCaleb Burnett, more attractively outfitted in foul weather gear) head out to sea in his little wooden boat — and who continues to wait at the window when he fails to return. Hours turn into days and then years, as her older self, played with nail-biting intensity by Allen, takes up the same position at the same window, compulsively reliving the day when “all was lost.”
In that long-ago time, a friend (Maren Bush) arrives to keep watch with the wife as she dithers about calling someone for help. In real time, the same friend (older now, and played by Pamela Shaw) returns to check on the wife, just in time to witness her final meltdown.
Until this climactic scene, John McDermott’s abstract set — a raked plank floor bordered by whitewashed timbered walls — was simply boring to look at. But when the grieving widow finally gives in to her death wish and embraces the “pitch-black darkness” of the heaving sea, Nicole Pearce (lighting) and Leah Gelpe (sound) use the back and side walls to bring the crashing waves and piercing wind onstage.
The point of this dramatic sound-and-light show appears to be to bring an end to the suspense over the fate of the wife. The problem is, there’s nothing suspenseful in the trajectory of the play. The wife’s state of mind is obvious from the beginning, as is the husband’s destiny at sea.
The only question worth pondering is whether the young wife had anything to do with the depression that led to the young husband’s presumed suicide. (Unless, of course, you’re going with the “accident at sea” theory.) But that possibility isn’t really explored. Like everything else in this slender narrative, the point is simply stated, over and over, in scene after scene, in increasingly melodramatic language. And calling it poetry doesn’t make it any less deadly.