There can be such a thing as too much beauty. Having worked briefly in Santa Fe, I can sense the truth behind Howard Korder’s new play, in which a pair of emigrants from Connecticut are undone by the many varieties of weirdness that seem to blossom, like flowering cacti, among the endless, picture-postcard vistas of the Southwest. Korder’s tremendous gifts, for language that crackles with surprise and scenes that build to intense heat, are generously displayed here, but so is his besetting temptation: an over-contrived lushness of plot that’s like a dark mirror of Santa Fe’s maddening gorgeousness.
The Rust Belt refugees, a hapless therapist (Dylan Baker) and his pop-archaeologist wife (Patricia Kalember), not only stir up local hornets’ nests in their respective fields, they redouble their problems with a naïveté that’s less than convincing. Loaded with emotional baggage from back East that suggests ’40s film noir plots, they’re dogged by coincidences that require definite stretch exercises in dramaturgy. Despite all of which, Sea of Tranquility is filled with arresting characters and well-shaped scenes that actually take you somewhere. Neil Pepe’s production, cast with strong, effective actors, gives Korder’s script handsome support.