Sunday, January 25, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

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

By
March 7, 2011 |

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

Comments

comments

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

     
    Four days of unusual, adventuresome music

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Red Cross honors community heroes

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Bridges of Yolo County: Wear, tear … repair?

    By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Abe ‘speechless’ after video claims IS hostage dead

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    GOP presses state bills limiting gay rights before ruling

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Abortion opponents express renewed hope at California rally

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Spanish police arrest 4 suspected members of a jihadi cell

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Rockets kill 30 in Ukrainian city as rebels launch offensive

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Fake schools draw federal scrutiny

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A3 | Gallery

    Winter produce available at Sutter market

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

     
    Sip wines at St. James’ annual tasting

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

     
    Donations to be distributed during homeless count

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A4

    Speaker will share computer security tips

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Logos Books celebrates 5 years, offers language groups

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Australian olive oil company opens U.S. headquarters in Woodland

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Explore at the YOLO Outdoor Expo

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Pedal around Davis on weekly bike ride

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Yolo animal shelter seeking rawhide donations

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A5

     
    Woodland Healthcare employees take Great Kindness Challenge

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

    At the Pond: Nest boxes give birds new homes

    By Jean Jackman | From Page: A6 | Gallery

     
    California ranks worst in nation for guidance counselors

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

    Davis, Woodland are saving water

    By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A12

     
    Music and Words Festival events

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A12

    .

    Forum

    Caring for the aging mouth

    By Samer Alassaad | From Page: A8

     
    Family isn’t keen on relationship

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: A8

     
    We have the right to choose

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    We don’t have to suffer

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    City helped immensely

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    Rick McKee cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

    Big utilities’ nightmare begins to play out

    By Tom Elias | From Page: A10

     
    Mayor’s Corner: Let’s renew Davis together

    By Dan Wolk | From Page: A10

    From innovation parks to innovative buildings and planning

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

     
    When measles spreads from Disneyland, it’s a small world after all

    By New York Times News Service | From Page: A11

    .

    Sports

    Loud crowd sees DHS boys win

    By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Lady Devils hold off Pacers, stay perfect in league

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    Wildcats’ inaugural kids development league exceeds expectations

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Aggies get top 2015 gymnastics score, but fall short

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    UCD men take two tennis matches

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B8

     
    Watney in ninth at Humana Challenge

    By Staff and wire reports | From Page: B8

    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    .

    Business

    Davis man focusing on cannabidiol business

    By Will Bellamy | From Page: A9

     
    Marrone Bio’s Regalia approved for new uses in Canada

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9

     
    UCD grad makes insurance ‘hot 100′ list

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

    Yolo County real estate sales

    By Zoe Juanitas | From Page: A9

     
    .

    Obituaries

    Thomas George Byrne

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Comics

    Comics: Sunday, January 25, 2015

    By Creator | From Page: B8