Paige O’Connor (Liv) and Nick Wilson (Nick). Photo: Joe Kenehan

Review by Jaiden van Bork

It is rare that a love story can feel so eerie. But on the set of Liv at Sea, the Harbor Stage Company has crafted a theatrical experience that manages to effortlessly ride the line between cutesy romance and psychological drama — plus a dash of apt dark humor.

In this brand-new play written and directed by Robert Kropf, audiences watch as a chaotic mess of passion and paranoia unfold when the title character Liv, played by Paige O’Connor, suddenly encounters a stranger (Jack Aschenbach), and is forced to grapple with new romantic feelings against the backdrop of her long-term relationship with her boyfriend (Nick Wilson).

You might call it a tale as old as time, but this show is steadfastly contemporary in its execution. The set design by Sara Walsh is appropriately minimal, but well-engineered to suit the narrative movement of the play. Combined with stellar lighting design by John Malinowski — which is at times subtle, and at times totally off-the-wall — the stage is somehow made to feel just as extravagant and cinematic as it is domestic, neutral, and imprisoning. At all points throughout the back-and-forth mood of the production, everything on stage — actors, lights, walls — feels remarkably natural. I even questioned whether the occasional flicker of a small LED against the backdrop was intentionally included, or simply the result of a real-life smoke detector within the theater.

This is not to mention the show’s unapologetic embrace and use of viral zoomer-pop hits like Lizzy McAlpine’s “Ceilings” or the 1975’s “Sex” — which are well-woven into the sound design and choreography of the performance, and which add a real depth of character to the show (even if it might escape those who are not as TikTok-inclined). Plus, this youthfulness is appropriate to the play’s widespread themes of uncertainty, anxiety, and romanticism throughout.

However, it would be disingenuous to not circle back to the stellar trio of a cast that creates much of the incredible energy this show contains. O’Connor is one hundred percent in her element here and delivers a spot-on, nearly-flawless, and frighteningly captivating performance. Wilson and Aschenbach compliment her perfectly, as well — and in two totally different ways — demonstrating an impressive level of stage chemistry and craft, that is much needed in this complex show.

Liv at Sea delivers absolutely everything you could want from a show about truth, love, and desire — presenting audiences with an experience that is charming, hilarious, terrifying, and cerebral all at once. It’s another performance from the Harbor Stage that is a must-see for this summer.

Liv at Sea is performed Thursdays –Saturdays (with an additional show Wednesday, August 2) at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 5 p.m. through August 5 at HarborStage, 15 Kendrick Ave., Wellfleet. For tickets ($25) and information call 508.349.6800 or visit harborstage.org.

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