Thursday, April 15, 2010

Play explores mermaids, garbage

Coney Island may be known for its mermaids, but this month, Red Hook will host more of the finned Sirens.

“A Thousand Thousand Slimy Things,” a new play on the Waterfront Museum and Showboat Barge, draws inspiration from the Weeki Wachee Springs mermaids — a roadside attraction in Florida that featured costumed women swimming in a large tank.

Jessica Brater, artistic director of the theater company Polybe + Seat, wasn’t merely looking for colorful visuals, but uses the attraction — which suffered from environmental and legal issues that nearly closed it down for good — as a metaphor for the myriad ways in which humans are screwing up the planet.

That swirling collection of plastic garbage in the North Pacific Ocean — twice the size of New Jersey! — is another handy jumping-off point.

With these iconic images in tow, Brater and company explore what happens if nothing is done about increasing plasticization, and the result is a play that combines the mythological with familiar tales like “Moby Dick.”

The Waterfront Barge, with its waterfront views and own Americana flavor, was a natural choice to host the play, which opens on April 23.

“It has an equally roadside attraction feel to it that is really special to us,” said Brater. “The initial form of roadside attraction in this part of the world is the showboat, so to be on one here in the water is bringing that back to Brooklyn.”

The mermaids don’t hurt, either.

“A Thousand Thousand Slimy Things” at the Waterfront Museum and Showboat Barge [290 Conover St. at Reed Street in Red Hook, (718) 624-4719], April 23-May 9. Shows are Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 7 pm. Tickets $18. For info, visit


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