Oysters Save the World (and Educate Humans) in Cirque de Sea
By: Susan Blood, August 2, 2012
Will oysters save the world? The Living Arts Institute thinks they have a shot—and may convince you, too, in their arts and science mashup, Cirque de Sea, playing at Provincetown Theatre now through Labor Day.
Cirque de Sea is the story of Sammy, the one-in-a-million spat that survives to adulthood.
See? You've already learned that out of a million oyster seeds, only one will survive. You'll pick up a lot more knowledge about saltwater life in this family-friendly comedy.
An assortment of characters come and go through Sammy's life. There's a heavy metal band that turns out to be a band of heavy metals (Nitrate is the frontman). There are two mussels that will remind Saturday Night Live fans of Hans and Franz.
There is also a motivational fairy (in drag) that spews one-line bumper sticker quotes, and a sultry starfish with one thing on her mind.
May the oysters be with you
My co-reviewer, age 6, was especially interested in the classroom scenes, in which Professor Oystahcatchah (Charles Alan) teaches two sea birds about bivalves and the importance of thinking before you dive.
While my companion may have learned some things, his main focus was figuring out how the actors could see out of the elaborate bird costumes.
Cirque de Sea is written by Kahren Dowcett and directed by Judith Partelow. It's produced by The Living Arts Institute, which is dedicated to community and environmental betterment through the arts.
August 5 is National Oyster Day! Be sure to check out the Cirque de Sea Opening Night Gala.
In other oyster news...
The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution holds a day-long symposium, Ocean’s Acid Test, on August 8 to highlight the dangers of ocean acidification on marine creatures, including shellfish.
The Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater will also present a shellfishy film, SHELLSHOCKED: Saving Oysters to Save Ourselves on August 19.
Winner of Best Short Feature at the 2012 Princeton Environmental Film Festival, SHELLSHOCKED follows efforts to prevent the extinction of wild oyster reefs, which have been declared ''the most severely impacted marine habitat on Earth.”
Overall, the costumes – which are more like full-body puppets than costumes - are terrific. The blue crabs, portrayed with attitude by Carl Freeman and Orville Xypesch (not his real name), had some of the best moments, including the “Blue Crab Rap.”
As Sammy, Jody O'Neill makes the show work. I'm not sure how you channel oyster spat, but O'Neill does it. From his first appearance as a tiny seed, through his development into a plump, delicious oyster (not yet on the half shell), O'Neill is funny, engaging, and exceedingly... oysterious.
I mentioned a fairy, Francis. Amid streams of motivational hogwash, Francis says, "Yes Sammy... within you rests the power to filter out the bad and create the good... this is a truth to live by. The power lies within you."
If you didn't know before, you'll know by the end of Cirque de Sea that oysters are efficient and ecologically-friendly water filtration systems. An oyster can filter 50 gallons of water a day. And they're delicious.
What's not to like?
Burlesque in beta
There's an adult version of Cirque de Sea at 9 PM that's billed as burlesque. It's still in beta form, but plan on more adult humor and crustacean sex of ambivalent gender.
Fun fact: Did you know that oysters change their sex as they grow? This show will make you smart, and even more fun at parties.