Mar

10

Eye Piece: Trite Blindness Metaphors but a Solid Cast

Written by

eyeballz
and by classic we mean literally just put "the" before a word and it's a horror movie

Not to be confused with the ’08 supernatural horror classic, The Eye, starring Jessica Alba!

This weekend, the Barnard Theatre Department presented an original piece by Pulitzer Prize nominee Rinde Eckert. An anonymous arts aficionado was there and he’s got some things to say.  

Until you have seen a bald, middle-aged blind man frolicking among gyrating youths, playing an accordion and moaning wordlessly in falsetto, you have seen nothing worthwhile. Eye Piece—an experimental Greek tragedy— is a testimony to this fact. Rinde Eckert (the bald, middle-aged playwright who also plays the aforementioned “Blind Musician”) has created a play that amounts to an extended statement of familiar themes that to anyone who has read the Masterpieces Of Western Literature (hint: Oedipus), are quite predictable.

The chorus is a “choir of eye-doctors” who discuss and reenact the experiences of their patients. The performances are all solid. Ben Russell’s subtlety makes the character Tiresias bearable (also note the *NSYNC-era Justin Timberlake quality of his hairstyle) while the excessively loud Justin Restivo shows great comic timing as Oedipus. Alessio Mineo plays a painter with a case of retinitis pigmentosa, and Lindsay Forcade his muse. These two “characters” seem to do nothing but clothe and unclothe themselves while spouting platitudes about “sight” and “darkness”. They are colossally insipid and uninteresting – mouthpieces for the everpresent Eckert – and it is a testament to the strength of the actors that I was not gouging out “Jacob Rothman”’s eyes myself. There is a vacuous old woman (Tabea Weitz) who describes herself as “an elegant old bird with an inflated sense of dignity” and a doctor (the energetic Julien Hawthorne deserves better) who struggles tediously with what it means to be a doctor. Finally there is Mr Eckert, the accordionist—he alone presumptuous enough to equate himself with Homer. He sits conspicuously on one side of the stage, making sound effects, entering only to give, at the close of Act I, a tepid speech about “fear.”

The script is based on Eckert’s experiences “as part of a residency at the University of Iowa” and apparently was “continually transformed in rehearsal”. It is occasionally funny (Mr Eckert has all the comedic skill of a Pulitzer Prize nominated playwright) and frequently calls attention to the theatre itself. The symbolism is as one would expect, e.g. “I was just a girl when I saw my first eclipse of the sun”. There are such sentences as “perhaps there’s too much light, we are suffocating in it” and “we have banished the infinity of the night”. The play is also punctuated with inexplicable and unnecessary musical numbers, with lyrics as vomitous as “this color, blue, has invaded my dreams” and “I am an orange moon in the night sky”.

Despite all, there are some good moments. The old woman’s comparison of her eyes to a burnt house, a priest in a hydraulically raised pulpit, Bintu Conteh’s hilarious portrayal of an old blind woman reading a magazine, and a monologue very well delivered by Jin Ha which ends in darkness – these are all scenes that, despite their excruciating obviousness, manage to wring a few laughs or sighs from their pupils. All praise to the terrific cast!

In the end, however, Eye Piece is so self-consciously “about blindness”, and so invested in its own uninspired conclusions, that any sense of drama is eclipsed by that bookish, preachy, and ultimately stale overtone. Blindness leads to comments on the limits of human understanding, fate, medicine, bigotry (“homophobia, racism, sexism” are swiftly mentioned, as if they had to be squeezed in somewhere), and the infinity of the universe. The theme becomes, like Eckert himself, a constant and ridiculous presence, and its effect is not the high tragedy or intellectual stimulation I believe he was aiming for, but a convergence of caricatures, tempered by some solid acting.

P.S.

The theatre was half empty. Support the arts on campus, philistines!

There’s something in your pupil, might want to get that checked out via Barnard.edu

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14 Comments

  1. A fellow viewer  

    This isn't a comment that is attacking the author of this review for being critical, but the way in which this piece was critiqued leaves much to be desired. Unqualified remarks referring to the play's "uninspired conclusions"or its "bookish, preachy, and ultimately stale overtone" do little to inform the reader about the play itself in terms of its achievements and shortcomings. True, there is a list of "good" and "bad" moments, haphazardly listed without context or further explanation, but this sort of superficial analysis is practically useless unless you've seen the show.

    Additionally, the author's critique of the thematic elements of the show denote a remarkably unsophisticated interpretation of what was a complex, detailed and lyrical play text. This piece was not just a hasty and unintelligent reworking of Oedipal myth, but a meditation on the intellectual engagement we have with such myths and how these engagements, beliefs, and hopes impinge upon our biological and material realities.

    My own opinions aside however, I would implore the author of this review to approach future reviews with a more analytical and respectful attitude. Dismissing a scene that made many of the audience members around me cry as " a middle-aged blind man frolicking among gyrating youths, playing an accordion and moaning wordlessly in falsetto," is absurd. Not because of the scene that it describes, but because of the lack of critical engagement with the theatrical work on the part of the reviewer that it suggests.

    In any case, I though "Eye Piece" was a fantastic achievement, and commend the writer, directors, cast and crew for what was one of the most amazing shows I've ever seen during my time at Columbia!

  2. Theatregoer

    I couldn't disagree with you more. Perhaps you are too inexperienced as a theatregoer to appreciate the delicate layers of Eyepiece, but this thought-provoking show was made of some of the best stuff theatre has to offer. The ensemble cast was spectacular! Each actor played his/her parts very aptly--the standouts being the entrancing Ben Russell and brilliantly comedic Justin Restivo, whose act two monologue was a triumph. The delicate balance of music, movement, language and design was most impressive. Having professional directors and writers bring this kind of experience to campus is a privilege; one that you are unfortunately too blind to appreciate yourself. Perhaps more people would come support the arts if reviewers like you didn't cut their projects down.

    • um

      "Perhaps you are too inexperienced as a theatregoer to appreciate the delicate layers of Eyepiece, but this thought-provoking show was made of some of the best stuff theatre has to offer"

      Perhaps you are too much of a douche to recognize a fair (though mostly negative) review of a play that was trite and boring.

      also: delicate layers ; this play is a pastry

  3. Theatregoer

    And, in order to have more faculty/students in the audience, the community needs to decide as a whole how to approach advertising and supporting theatrical projects. It was a shame that every Lit Hum student who had read Sophocles' works wasn't given extra credit to come see this performance. Perhaps the English and Theatre Departments can work together to inspire more students to attend the great educational shows happening on campus.

  4. Reader  

    This review is phenomenally written and reasoned.

  5. Corporal Leslie Groves  

    This is an excellent review, which speaks to the utter self-assured insaneness which passes for art on this campus at times. Let Frank push you to newer, shinier heights where perhaps you won't need to be blind to see and to show your audience to see.

    • Theatregoer

      How's that L&R class working out for you? Not very well considering your final sentence. When Frank creates anything remotely artistic or works to enhance the arts on campus, rather than cut them down with base insults, i will hold his opinion in higher esteem. You should also go see some real theatre in NYC before you call yourself a reviewer.

      • give it up

        So because the author is not creating art, he is denied an opinion? These insults aren't base. He's not calling the play a piece of shit; he is simply saying that he found the metaphor dull and overdone. Also, what the fuck is with your sanctimonious tone regarding the validity of other's opinions regarding theater? What is *real* theater?

  6. Marie Curie  

    I wish merely to agree with Corporal Leslie Groves and to add that the author of this review sounds charming and handsome.

  7. Bwog Theater Reviewer

    Hey! Just because I don't see theater doesn't mean I can't say whatever I want about it! It's an experimental Greek Tragedy! Why not? It ended with people dying or being sad or whatever right? Whatever, I can't really remember. Anyway, g2g. Someone just posted the Far Cry 3 video game trailer on my wall. This IS GONNA BE DOPE!

    L8er

    P.S.
    "Philistines" was a sick ending to the review right? My CC prof said it once and I left gchat and looked it up on wikipedia while he thought I was taking notes.

  8. Another theater goer  

    It's less that a bad review can't add anything meaningful to campus dialogue and more that this critic reduced a visually beautiful and conceptually complex play to a series of simplistic thematic statements. Yes, of course, how tedious it must be to watch an artist coping with losing his eye sight, or to watch a doctor wrestle with what it means to save a life. The critic's arrogant rhetoric makes it seem as if these issues only deserve a passing glance, but don't deserve extensive artistic exploration.

    A play isn't a manifesto. It's not about "conclusions" as you say. If you're interested in a bunch of reductionist one-liners that you can take away from the play, then you're not gonna get much from a piece like this. It's really that your conclusions are "uninspired," and not the play's.

    And describing a Pulitzer Prize nominated play write as a "bald, middle-aged blind man" with "a constant and ridiculous presence," is offensive. That's not criticism. It's an unintelligent, mean-spirited, and crude insult.

    Also, it's not an "experimental Greek tragedy." You mentioned something about lit hum up there? Go read some fucking Aristotle.

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