Wednesday, April 16, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

‘Come Hell and High Water’ packs flood of thoughtful imagery

By
March 7, 2011 | Leave Comment

UC Davis student Matthew Dunivan stars in the department of theater and dance's production of "Come Hell and High Water," playing through Sunday at the Main Theatre at UCD. Jeff Perry/Courtesy photo

“Come Hell and High Water” — onstage at UC Davis for three more performances this week — is Granada Artist-in-Residence Dominique Serrand’s absorbing and thought-provoking meditation on people caught up in (and changed by) their experience in a vast natural disaster.

Serrand is working off of several sources — one being William Faulkner’s novella “Old Man,” about a convict detailed to help repair levees during the Great Flood of 1927. That year, the swollen Mississippi River jumped its banks, creating a body of water 50 miles wide and more than 100 miles long, killing hundreds of people.

The convict, a hapless sort, is ordered to take a skiff (which he doesn’t know how to maneuver) and paddle off to rescue a pregnant woman who’s climbed up a tree to escape the rising water. After some misadventures, she finally manages to get into the skiff, then goes into labor and gives birth. The floodwaters carry the skiff all the way to New Orleans, where the convict is taken back into custody and returned to prison.

In addition to incorporating the frame of Faulker’s story, Serrand invokes a second natural disaster. As the convict is finally released (at age 100), Hurricane Katrina comes roaring into New Orleans as the play ends.

This plot summary, however, represents only a portion of what is going on, because Serrand’s play resonates with spiritual (and frequently biblical) imagery, both visually and musically. Think of Noah and the flood, think of baby Moses in a basket among the bulrushes, think of slavery and freedom…

The music deftly incorporates sung passages from classic African-American spirituals, as well as choral music from colonial America as well as the classical era. (Significantly, Serrand describes “Come Hell and High Water” as “an oratorio of sorts” in his director’s note.)

Naturally, the staging includes lots of water: splashing water in sinks, dribbling water from bottles, falling “rain” from overhead pipes. There’s no great effort to make everything “realistic”: the pregnant woman in a tree is actually on top of a refrigerator, the skiff is represented by a four-wheeled dolly, concrete blocks and lumber create the image of people carefully walking through the soggy landscape.

Having personally lived through a significant natural disaster with a pregnant woman — in my case it was an earthquake, my wife was six months pregnant, we had no power or water and we slept outside for several nights— I can say that Serrand gets the experience just about right. Time becomes elongated, so that by the end of the day, you can barely remember what you did in the morning.

Likewise, Serrand understands the way people improvise with found objects — in this play, a discarded tin can with the jagged lid still attached becomes a very useful thing. And the awesome power of the disaster — as you witness things you never expected to see — is simultaneously thrilling and frightening, dislocating and exhausting.

“Come Hell and High Water” is colored by the muddled personality of the Convict, the viewpoint character, played with suitable mousiness by young actor Matthew Dunivan. An older version of the Convict, looking back on the events of the Great Flood, is present in many scenes as the superannuated Old Man (Brian Livingston, using a wheelchair).

The Convict’s life is a series of miscues and mistakes. He was sent to prison after a fruitless attempt to rob a train using a pistol that wouldn’t fire. His relationships with women are invariably disastrous. And in the end, he isn’t especially interested in being free — the understandable routine of prison is in some ways preferable to the confusing world outside that he doesn’t understand.

Avila Reese plays the Woman in a Tree, and she has plenty to do, including giving birth. Tamera Tomakili plays the Deer (a trapped animal that the Convict releases, which then shadows the Convict and the Woman in a Tree for part of their watery journey).

Brendan Ward plays the Warden — the sole authority figure in this story, at once more logical and specifically located in 1927, as compared to the other characters, whose flood experience could fit into almost any era.

All in all, it’s a most interesting piece. Serrand — who won a Tony Award in 2005 for his work with the now-defunct Theatre de la Jeune Lune — will stage the professional premiere of “Come Hell and High Water” in Minneapolis in May. But in the meantime, you should give this campus “warm-up” production a try.

Check it out

What: “Come Hell and High Water” (the play includes brief nudity and profanity)

When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: Main Theatre in Wright Hall at UC Davis

Tickets: $15-$17 general and $11-$13 for students, available online at http://theatredance.ucdavis.edu or by calling (530) 754-2787

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

News

 
‘Eco-Heroes’ help get us from here to there

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1, 2 Comments | Gallery

 
CHP seeks owner of lost cash

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

 
 
Home building up in March after frigid winter

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Davis elder-abuse case wraps up

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

 
Alleged serial killings highlight GPS limits

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Local professor subdues unruly man on flight

By Adrian Glass-Moore | From Page: A3, 2 Comments

 
Family fiction in miniature showcased at bookstore event

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Yolo Crisis Nursery is in crisis; please help

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
Meditation, Buddhism classes offered

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Seniors can get tips for getting around town

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
School has garden plots for rent

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Sugar overload, on ‘Davisville’

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Rotarians, students, teachers, parents collaborate on planter boxes

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4 | Gallery

Animal expert explains dogs’ thinking

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

 
Check out the night sky

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5 | Gallery

Hop to it: Easter Bunny meets Davis history tour

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
Garden doctor: Veggie gardening available year-round

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

 
Central Park Gardens to host Volunteer Orientation Day

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7 | Gallery

 
.

Forum

Still supporting this guy

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

 
Urban forest under siege

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6, 5 Comments

Drought care for our trees

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

 
Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

.

Sports

UCD staff allows 19 hits in Causeway rout

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
DHS softball struggles in nonleague outing

By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Devils open Boras Classic by splitting games

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
 
JV/frosh roundup: DHS sweeps a trio of baseball games

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Baseball roundup: River Cats get by Grizzlies at Raley

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Giants beat L.A. in 12

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Sports briefs: Stanford sends Aggies home with a lacrosse loss

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B8 | Gallery

 
.

Features

 
.

Arts

Craft Center exhibit explores ‘Possibilities’

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9

 
RootStock to host wine themed plein aire exhibit

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

The California Honeydrops to bring danceable groove to The Palms

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

 
See Flower Power exhibit at Gallery 625

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

Red Union Blue inks record deal

By Landon Christensen | From Page: A9 | Gallery

 
.

Business

.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Comics: Wednesday, April 16, 2014

By Creator | From Page: B6