Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Private Eyes"

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note: entire contents copyright 1999 by Larry Stark

"Private Eyes"

by Steven Dietz
Directed by M. J. Daly

Lights Operator Phil Downes

Matthew.............Bill Church
Lisa..............Gail Herendeen
Adrian......Aaron Crutchfield
Cory.........Marianne Buckley
Frank........Philip Deschamps

I don't know how The Baobab Theatre Company finds such amazing plays. They started last year with "Landscape with Sharks and Dancer" and have followed it this summer with Steven Dietz' "Private Eyes" --- a play that defies description simply because even a slight hint about its subject-matter would damage the continual peeling away of one layer of onion after another. It is subtitled "a comedy of suspicion" and just about the only thing the show lacks is a big audience prepared to laugh with delight at surprise after startling surprise as it burrows deeper and deeper after truths.

This is an uncompromising company dedicated to Doing The Work, and they concentrate on playing so single-mindedly that the whole company handles sets and lights and it may even be that actors' and directors' roles blur, if not merge. The two actors who did "Landscape..." have brought with them not a shred of their former performances --- only that feeling that they Are exactly the people Deitz had in mind when he wrote "Private Eyes".

It's a play about theater people --- but when is a person playing a director casting a play, and when is he playing an actor playing a director? Or is it all psycho-dramatic re-enactment? And when can everyone reach a level true enough to stop? Director M. J. Daly and the cast lead the audience up so many garden paths that, just when they might begin believing nothing can be real, the acting turns so compelling they're ripe to be tricked again.

The playwright does it by re-cycling scenes and sentences, each time in a new setting and played in an entirely different way, acquiring newer significance not only by new contexts but by the mere awareness of contexts past. And just what does "a lie" mean when it's part of a stage play?

The company does it by continually playing every scene as honestly as possible, letting the increasing seriousness of the action speak for itself, winding the five characters tighter and tighter as lighter interpretations of the play's truth go up in hilarious smoke. They start on a believable level of sincerity, and never pretend. And, if anything, this approach fails to telegraph to the fascinated audience that what's going on is amazingly funny.

Or am I lying? Or do I just believe something that isn't so? Or maybe I am telling you I truly believe their lies? Or is all criticism, after all, an exercize in mutual self-deception where the reader believes the writer is sincere?
And what about.............................Cory?????????

Obviously, no matter what frame of mind you enter the Peabody House in, it will be different when you walk out.

Trust me! ;-}


22 - 31 July
"Private Eyes"
Peabody House Theatre, 277 Broadway, SOMERVILLE

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide