March 9, 2015

In “The Liquid Plain,” the soggy play by Naomi Wallace at the Signature Theater, a pair of runaway slaves eke out a living on a dock in Rhode Island, desperately hoping to escape across the sea to Africa. Adjua (Kristolyn Lloyd) and Dembi (Ito Aghayere) are lovers determined to forge new lives for themselves, and they sustain each other with ardent affection and dreams of a future that will ease memories of the brutalities they endured in the past. Their hopes include starting a family, although it is revealed in a short prologue that Dembi is biologically a woman. Whether her decision to dress as a man is a strategic disguise, a personal choice or a little of both is revealed only late in the play, but then many elements in Ms. Wallace’s complicated yet stubbornly static drama remain head-scratchers. How is it, for instance, that Adjua and Dembi move so freely around the docks, with little fear of being captured by bounty hunters who surely would be on the prowl? (Much of the play takes place in “a possible 1791,” according to the program.) Would a pair of runaway slaves be able to blithely board a vessel arriving at a New England port?