SALT LAKE CITY – On Saturday, March 23rd, 2024, I saw Ocean Filibuster at the Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah.  The play is written by Lisa D’Amour, directed by Katie Pearl and performed by Jennifer Kidwell, with Evan Spigelman as the Senate Page. It opens with Mr. Majority (played by Kidwell) at the Global Senate trying to pass the End of Ocean Bill which would reduce the ocean into seven manageable seas. On the large stage, the back wall is used to display various images throughout the production. In this portion, Mr. Majority shows images of the Earth having an expanded land mass and sings lyrics like “This land was made by you and me.” But technical errors appear as he tries to display more about the bill, and he rushes off stage as Ocean (also played by Kidwell) enters, covered in a large cocoon of plastic debris to filibuster the bill.

Ocean’s filibuster consumes the rest of the performance, and is given three rules: talk consistently for fifteen hours, stay on topic and don’t ask for help. And thus begins Ocean’s Filibuster, as O (as she comes to be called) talks about the wonders of herself, the problems facing the ocean and how humans are creating the very problems they’re trying “to solve” with further technological innovation. No time is wasted as the play makes excellent use lights (designed by Thomas Dunn) and sounds (designed by Andrew Lynch and Sxip Shirey) — immediately, the lights go dark as Ocean talks about deep sea creatures and how red light has a long wavelength that other fish can’t see, and the screen depicts drawings of anglerfish and other animals. This type of sequence of showing relevant images on the back wall is repeated throughout the show.

Next, Ocean describes a female scientist who has traveled several days to get a sample in the middle of the ocean and orders something off Amazon. As she speaks there is an overlay of sound effects — typing at a computer, placing an order, the order being packaged and sent to the location. Ocean mentions how this uses carbon, and what can’t be stored in her gets stored in the sky — which leads to an image of ocean air currents that help deal with carbon. Then, without warning, the house lights turn yellow and the audience is asked to imagine themselves as baby crabs while the Ocean describes the effects ocean acidification has on these tiny marine creatures.

Not only is Ocean Filibuster punctuated with scientific facts, it features poignant messaging and memorable lines throughout its musical numbers. In one song, Ocean asks “How can you live with no ocean?” When Mr. Majority talks about the technological advances required to help humans live on a planet with no Ocean, she responds, “Maybe you can stop and just be.” And after Ocean recounts a story of a man dying while free diving, the lights shift to pink/red and she sings “I don’t care about you” over and over.

One of the most interesting aspects of the performance is watching Kidwell play two characters at once, which highlights their differences. Mr. Majority is portrayed as a man with glasses and a jacket. To become Ocean, Kidwell takes the glasses off. In one powerful scene, the audience sees a livestream of the actor’s face as she shifts between the two characters: Ocean asks Mr. Majority about his experiences with her, and he describes spending time at the beach and how his sister used to bury his legs in the sand. With expert deftness, Kidwell shifts masterfully between the two characters as they talk and respond to each other.

Despite Ocean’s efforts, Mr. Majority isn’t convinced and performs a song recounting the story of human evolution — how humans crawled out of the ocean as tiny creatures, evolving into beings that think, innovate, create. He talks about cities and skyscrapers with certainty of the supremacy of humankind. Ocean responds with her own song, declaring “Your consciousness is not so precious. Your consciousness is killing you. Your consciousness is not as precious as you think.” An ensemble cast of activists then asks the audience to stand with O — though it’s not clear if this is a call to action, as one or two people did stand, or just part of the performance. Once onstage, the activists talk about how it’s difficult to connect with nature amongst the challenges of everyday life.

Ocean Filibuster is a powerful performance piece that challenges people to de-center human desires and focus on her, the Ocean; and to remove oneself from the anthropocentric framework that causes Mr. Majority to say “We can die in shame or make a world we can actually live in.” To which Ocean responds, “Us is more than just humans.” Ocean Filibuster is an excellent play that asks viewers to literally stand with O, and encourages audience members to think about the interconnectivity of life and that it isn’t just humans who live here.

PearlDamour’s Ocean Filibuster played on March 23rd at 7:30 PM at Kingsbury Hall, on the campus of the University of Utah. Tickets are $10-48. For more information, visit

These reviews are made possible by a grant from the Salt Lake County Zoo, Arts, and Parks program.