Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
Galilee is set in a small town on the Great Barrier Reef. Carol is a marine biology major who is taking a break from studying at the University to help her mother take care of her ailing father and run the family business. That family business is her mother's hair salon, which has been suffering ever since the fishing industry left town. In fact, the entire town has been suffering since the fish went away. Carol understands why this is happening and she has some good ideas about how to fix it, but the intransigence of the locals and the predatory practices of opportunistic business make it nearly impossible for her to effect any meaningful change.
Flowers has gathered a top notch ensemble for the production. Zoe Nebraska Feldman is earnest, sympathetic, and seriously hardheaded as young Carol. Her mother Mardy is played by D'Arcy Dersham with a nervous optimism that hit me right in the heart. Ryane Nicole Studivant is charmingly gritty as the gregarious owner of a local fishing tour company. David Bardeen gives a complex and nuanced performance as Jimmy, a longtime local fish spotter and barfly. There is a real sense of connection among these actors, and their authentic affection is key to the play's success.
Dirk Durossette's simple yet clever scenic designs are impressively evocative, and Lily Fossner's dynamic lighting design is thoughtful and well executed.
In spite of the first-rate cast, clever sets and excellent lighting designs, there are places where Galilee still needs some work. The plot about what happened to Carol and her friend back at school never gets fleshed out in a satisfying way. And it is not clear to me why Carol's old friend Harry shows up or what function he serves in the play. I also don't love the attempts to blend reality and fantasy, which just leave me feeling sort of confused.
Fortunately, none of these issues kept me from enjoying this production and taking in its vital message about the devastating impact of global warming–not just the global warming that is sure to come, but the climate change that is already causing harm every day. It is a message all of us should hear.
Galilee runs through May 21, 2023, at the Proscenium Theatre at the Drake, 302 S Hicks Street, Philadelphia PA. For tickets and information, please call 215-563-1100 or visit azukatheatre.org.