by Kristin Walters
In “pool (no water),” four starving artists struggle with jealousy and failure while visiting their successful friend. The group complains about their friend’s emotional absence, the superficiality of her work; they describe her as an “artist (no substance).” But when a terrible accident incapacitates the rich hostess, the group succumbs to the seduction of success and takes full advantage of the house’s staff and, of course, the pool. At the bedside of their comatose friend, the group begins to create what they consider a masterpiece, at which point the play begins a twisted exploration into the fragility and duality of the mind and what degree of moral repugnancy one can excuse for the sake of art.
Originally, Mark Ravenhill wrote the play as a monologue, and as a result the four members of the group function as one unit; they never argue amongst each other, nor do they have particularly differing personalities. When one character speaks, the others function merely as props. The excess of bodies weighs the piece down and makes it harder to sympathize with any of the characters, a tragedy considering the high quality of the acting.
At moments of high emotion, the lights dim, a great soundtrack blares and the four actors improvise “expressive” movement across the white tile of the set (a pool with no water). But these interludes become repetitive and awkward due to stiff and strained movements that lack forward motion.
The seesawing of the group’s psychological state fascinates and resonates with a truth most people fear to acknowledge: how thin the line between sanity and insanity. But for only eighty-two minutes, “pool (no water)” indulges too many themes, and while the group’s descent into depravity shocks enough to entertain, it stops short of eliciting concern for the characters. In the end, it’s a play (no payoff).