Absurdist scuba drama comes to Blacktip Island’s underwater theater Saturday with the Blacktip Community Players’ Fall Extravaganza “Waiting For Cousteau,” commemorating marine explorer Jacques Cousteau’s famous 1971 expedition to Truk Lagoon.
The play, written by B.C.P. artistic director Doris Blenny, blends ‘The Lagoon of Lost Ships’ episode of “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau,” which documented the exploration of the World War II-era Imperial Japanese fleet sunk at the South Pacific atoll, with Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting For Godot.”
“That show hooked a generation of scuba divers,” Blenny said. “Beckett hooked a generation of theater-goers. Combined, the two speak to a certain je ne sais quoi of time and place that is Blacktip Island.”
In Blenny’s play, the crew of Calypso waits in Truk Lagoon for Jacques Cousteau to arrive. A succession of messengers tells them Cousteau is coming, but he never does. Crewmembers pass the time studying fish, debating whether they’re seeing the same fish or merely similar fish, and whether they’ve had that conversation before.
“It’s art copying life for most of Blacktip’s residents,” Blenny said. “And, frankly, some of the guests.”
The play will be staged in 20 feet of water off Diddley’s Landing public pier in a model of Cousteau’s famous exploration ship, Calypso. Local divemasters will play Cousteau’s crew as well as the Japanese wrecks.
“It’s an awesome acting exercise,” said divemaster Alison Diesel, who plays the sunken auxiliary cruiser Aikoku Maru. “Any schmuck can lay there and say she’s a shipwreck, but for this, you have to tell a destroyer from a minesweeper just by the set of the actor’s shoulders. In full scuba gear, mind you.”
“The depth of talent on display here is stunning,” Blenny said. “Gage Hoase does the narration in an absolutely spot-on Rod Serling. And his prologue in Cousteau’s voice is uncanny.”
“Aft-air many days in the lagoon the Crew of Calypso became very lonely,” Hoase said as Cousteau. “Some even grew quite friendly with the booby birds populating the island.”
“Of course, on Blacktip the guests usually become friendly with the dive staff,” Hoase added, dropping out of character. “But it amounts to the same thing.”
All performers will use Aqua Lung regulators in honor of Cousteau’s invention.
The performance will be streamed live to televisions in the Sand Spit bar as well as on the B.C.P. website.
The Sand Spit will feature specials on rum-and-bourbon Shipwreck cocktails, French wine and Japanese sake. Red knit watch caps will be available for purchase before and after the calypso dance contest.