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A CONTAGIOUS BLINDNESS
Theatre Review
by Harvey Perr
Blindness
now playing at 59E59 Theatres
ends April 8, 2007
At a certain moment in the Godlight Theatre Company production of “Blindness,” one of the actors places a scissors on the wall, clearly intended to be used at some later point in the evening. From that moment on, my attention was on the scissors, not on the play. The tiny space in which the action takes place was filled with actors, in various states of “blindness,” running into each other and moving precariously close to the wall where the scissors were hanging. One collision with the wall – and, for one reviewer, this provided the evening with its only real tension – and the scissors might have been dislodged and fallen. Under any circumstances, one would not like to see actors put into such a dangerous position. In the case of “Blindness,” it would have only added injury to insult.
The first insult was to Jose Saramago, the Nobel Prize-winning Portuguese writer upon whose novel the play was based. While one wants to admire Godlight, whose intention is to bring serious literature to theater audiences, especially since its previous work seems to have garnered praise and awards, the blame must fall heavily on the shoulders of Joe Tantalo, who adapted and directed this work for the stage. One could sense that, in its original incarnation, this was intended as a profound meditation on how a culture, unable to “see” what is happening in the world, becomes immersed in a “white blindness” that proves contagious and leads to chaos. But, in the theatre, this has become not only an occasion for over-simplified mumbo jumbo in the end, but was, throughout, an inarticulate and hopelessly confusing parable. If the adaptation had been pitched a bit higher, to embrace the potential absurdity, we might have been witness to the real horrors that lie just below that absurd surface, i.e. we might have laughed openly with the play, instead of sniggling surreptitiously at it.
The second insult was to the audience. With the exception of Maruti Evans’s striking lighting effects, this was, quite simply, the season’s most unprofessional production. The actors, most of them not up to the task of appearing in any play, were disconnected from each other and from us. And the close quarters in which we were seated, as well as the fact that there was no intermission, made it impossible to escape its ineptitude. At least, a pair of scissors was not hanging over us. Except, of course, in the metaphoric sense. 
 
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