Sunday, August 09, 2015
Wax Wings Productions Presents "Eyes Shut. Door Open." - A New Play by Cassie M. Seinuk - A Must See!
Wax Wings Productions is a fairly new addition to the Boston theater scene. As the name implies, they are inspired to fly boldly near the sun, taking artistic risks akin to those taken by Icarus and Daedalus. In choosing to mount the first fully staged production of Cassie M. Seinuk's play, "Eyes Shut. Door Open." this company has soared and not lost their wings by flying too close to the sun. This is a complex and beautifully written play, directed with precision and passion by Christopher Randolph. The cast of Victor Shopov, Melissa M. DeJesus and Michael James Underhill are stunning in their respective very demanding roles.
The play is a modern modulation on the Cain and Abel theme of two brothers whose rivalry for their father's love turns violent. The playwright has dipped her pen deep into the well of John Steinbeck's take on the ancient story as he retold it in "East of Eden." Ms. Seinuk is very generous in nodding to Steinbeck when she has the Street brothers hail from Eaton, Ohio. So, when they separately make the journey from Ohio to New York City, they are traveling "East of Eaton"!
Set Designer Kyle Blanchette and Props Designer Lauren Annese help to perpetuate the Garden of Eden theme with a basket of apples from which one of the brothers takes and devours part of the forbidden fruit. Lighting designer Christopher Bocchiaro has added some nice effects using red lights to indicate the presence of evil and the haunting memories of a long-dead father who voice sends Turner into paroxysms of fear. Sound design by Patrick Greene and Costume design by Stephanie K. Brownell complete the scene in the art gallery and in Turner's apartment.
The basic plot line is that Johanna is writing a piece about young wunderkind artist Turner Street. She insinuates herself into his life by posing as a server at an opening of one of his gallery shows. In a scene of mutual seduction, she accepts his invitation to return with him to his apartment and studio to see some of his more bold paintings. While they are preparing to get intimate, into the apartment bursts younger brother, Palmer Street, who has just arrived by bus from Ohio. He had received an invitation to the gala opening, but did not make it in time. This troubled young man has a history of drug abuse, and sports a black eye patch to cover a wound he suffered in a car accident the day of their father's funeral. It turns out that Johanna, hoping to write an expose, has stacked the deck, manipulating things so that Palmer would show up in NYC and she would force Turner to reveal long-hidden family secrets.
Turner is Cain, who was never felt accepted by their father, a Vietnam vet suffering from PTSD and alcoholism. Palmer, many years younger, adored his father and was the "apple" of his father's eye. Nitro meets glycerine. Boom! Johanna is both seductive serpent in the garden and the very embodiment of the Tree of The Knowledge of Good and Evil. As the tension and the violence between the brothers escalates, she finds herself trapped in the storm which she has unleashed. As Johanna, Ms. DeJesus walks a tightrope between being coolly seductive and cruelly provocative. It is a difficult role played with great finesse by this actor. Victor Shopov delivers the kind of stellar performance we have come to expect from him, creating a Turner who is deeply conflicted about his past and his art and the jarring collision of these two tectonic plates in his life. His eruptions into rage when confronting his brother and his past are frightening to behold in the intimate space of The Inner Sanctum. Michael James Underhill comes to this role as Palmer fresh from his triumph in playing twin brothers in "Dying City." As good as he was in that play, he has raised his game to a new level in creating the pill-popping Palmer. Every nuance of speech and of halting movement speaks to one deep in the thrall of addiction and a slide down a vortex of self-destruction. There is a rawness in Mr. Underhill's portrayal of Palmer that show elements of James Dean and a young Marlon Brando. Yes, his performance is that good!
Underlying the Garden of Eden and Cain and Abel motifs lie an examination of what motivates an artist to produce his or her best work. In a clever twist, all of the works of art we are shown are blank canvases, allowing the viewer to paint with his own imagination what should be seen on the canvas. This play is a brilliant new work of art, painted in vibrant colors by a cast that frames the action to show the playwright's work in the best possible light. This is a play that must be seen. It will play at the Inner Sanctum near Dudley Square in Roxbury through August 15. See performance schedule and link below: