Rookies playing marbles couch the glass eye in the crook of their index finger and flick out with the thumb. Then comes along a shark who pivots on the thumb, ratcheting back the bonker on the tip of their finger and letting fly, snap and crack goes the dirt, dreams shattering into the dusty wind.
Which isn't that far from the screw turn of And the Tide Shall Cover the Earth by Norma Cole. People's lives are sitting in a ring of dirt, rolling around with a hint of the future before they're collected in a sock and passed around by greater forces, of government heels, coming down on high with orders to put them in certain slough pockets of "this is your now existence".
In this blackbox setting, the second row is on the same plane as the first, and depending on what seats are filled, the view is a back end of shadow obscuring the lay of the stage. There then the eyes focus on the cross-stream, the actors and the props visible through cracks in the head and shoulders, as if glimpsing the bickering and machinations through slats in the fence. It turns the intimate into a zoetrope.
That's not quite the promise here. The characters in conversations edge each other on the hand-wringing, nudging through a chance to get themselves barely above the waterline. Or at least a sodden surer footing on the situation they're in. Everyone's trying their hand at a gamble on life and how they come through is part wits, part scheming, part shearing off the enamel from their front teeth. And a lot of quilts.
Granny (Amber Frangos) is cantankerous and spins yarns about treasures in blue jars, of which you only see none of really, other than the one with marbles. It's all molasses of marbles in the scheme of things, loose peons rattling around between a sock and a jar. The soft to hard, a life lived bouncing around in the noise of becoming so firm you're petrified liquid.
Dade (Jeremy Cloyd) carries a slouch that works in his attempts to assert a semblance of authority in the family unit, but not so much a working strong posture when the same actor is the G-Man come delivering the eviction notice once more. Geneva (Alexandra George) is wily enough to want more than the saddle of what is will always be that the next generation of the family will look beyond wanting to stay in place.
And the Tide Shall Cover the Earth is inherently a game of marbles where even when you're knocked face hard, there's a boring divot you're working before it's your turn to make the move. And how you come out of the ring, or make your intentions known, it's all about giving it a full force of will, not just acceptance. To not ever lie down and wait for outside forces to move your hand.
Directed by Sommer Schoch in blackbox style at The Center for Rural Development in Somerset, Kentucky on Friday, 14 August 2015.
Reviewed on Sunday, 16 August 2015