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Tallahassee Irish Repertory Theatre Stages a Seabound Saga of Love and Language

The Tallahassee’s Irish Repertory Theatre’s latest production portrays a saga of love that will be familiar to anyone whose relationship began on line and – despite high hopes at the beginning - went downhill from there.

The play is the highly acclaimed “Sea Marks”, written by Gardner McKay. There are only two characters in the play. “Colm”, played by Neil Coker, whose writings on the arts appear frequently in the Tallahassee Democrat.

“Sea Marks is the story of two star-crossed – or ‘sea-crossed’ as I call them in my 2015 review – lovers who come together in a most unconventional way. They write letters to one another over the course of a couple of years and this is in the late 1960s/early 1970s, the years leading up to that,” Coker explained, adding that’s somewhat analogous to the way so many people initiate their romantic relations on-line today.

The object of Colm’s affectionate correspondence is “Timothea”, played by Cristi Izquierdo.

“You still kind of feel that anticipation…are they going to meet?” she asked. “Are they going to see each other? And you feel that electricity when they first see each other. But then, like many relationships that start off via the Internet, you start to notice what it’s like to actually live with this person.”

Much of this mounting discontent, said Director Phil Croton, can be laid at the feet of unrealistic expectations, coupled with a little bit of Pygmalion-syndrome on the part of Timothea.

“Timothea is very much of a city girl,” he said. “She works in a publishing house in Liverpool and she’s come from these very rural roots. She was a Welsh farm girl growing up and so she’s really tried hard to escape that life. She lives in the big city now. Colm on the other hand lives on an island to the west of Ireland doing nothing but fishing all day with a net.”

That dynamic, Director Croton said, makes the Sea Marks tale resonate with almost anyone who’s ever struggled with romantic incompatibilities.

“It applies to absolutely everybody. We all have these things in any relationship where you love your partner very much, but there’s something about them you try to change or modify and if you do that, they’re not the person that you fell in love with, so how can you arrive at a conclusion? That’s what the play goes on to do and leaves us at the end – I won’t give too much away because I want people to come see what happens in the end – but how can this be resolved?”

This requires actors with a profound understanding of these matters and both Izquierdo and Coker said their real-life relationship breathes even more life and authenticity into their portrayals of Timothea and Colm. “I’m very lucky to be able to do this my partner,” smiled Izquierdo. “It’s an opportunity you just don’t get,” agreed Coker, with Izquierdo jumping in to exclaim, “And to be in such good hands, there’s a lot of trust actors have to build, especially in a two-part show.”

Izquierdo is of Cuban heritage. That made her role a particular stretch since so much of her character depends on shifting language accents from a very different part of the world.

“This has been quite a challenge!” she laughed. “English is not my first language as it is. So having to put on a Liverpool accent on top of a young woman who is from Wales.”

Director Croton, a theatrical veteran from London’s fabled West End, was delighted to demonstrate the linguistic subtleties.

“It’s very sing-song,” he said, lapsing into a thick Liverpool accent, “So if I were trying to get Cristi to sound like a Beatle that’s how you’d start like that. But you come from Wales,” he said with a deeper and more clipped voice, “It’s very up-and-down and very sing-songy and slower.”

Croton said Sea Marks opens at the Theatre Tallahassee Coffee House on Thomasville Road next week.

“The show goes up on Thursday the 23rd, then the 24th, 25th and 26th. The following weekend we’re on Saturday, March 4th and then Sunday, March 5th. The evening performances are at 8 p.m. and matinees are at 2 p.m. and you can purchase tickets at: www.tallahasseeirishrep.com or call: 850-339-4659.”

The Tallahassee Irish Repertory Theatre’s “Sea Marks” is a great love story and still close enough to Valentine’s Day to make for an enjoyable – and perhaps very conversation provoking – date.

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Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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