Theatre Intime’s production of Donald Margulies’ “Sight Unseen,” directed by Eric Traub ’14, is an impressive and inspiring take on a Pulitzer-nominated play. “Sight Unseen” tells the story of two lovers who reunite after more than a decade, revisiting the demise of their affair while also tackling the repercussions of their personal transformations during their time apart. The production delves unabashedly into the play’s more controversial and emotional themes through its raw and insightful performances.
The play unfolds as a series of protagonist Jonathan Waxman's non-chronological memories. Jonathan is first introduced to the audience as a successful Jewish-American artist visiting England for the premiere of his first European exhibition. He visits his former lover and original muse, Patricia, an American expatriate who relocated across the pond after their breakup. Patricia now lives in a small town in northern England with her British husband of about nine years, Nick, a reserved archaeologist. The play jumps back and forth between Jonathan’s arrival at Patricia’s, his interview with a German art journalist four days later and a time 15 years prior, when he and Patricia were still lovers.
The play itself tackles a number of pertinent themes and becomes more than just the story of the revisitation of a lost love. It addresses the meaning and interpretation of art in society, as well as the means by which society determines art’s value, both fiscally and culturally. Religion, cultural integration and the nature of marriage as a religious and cultural institution are a few of the other ideas the play explores.
The acting in “Sight Unseen” is marvelous. Peter Giovine ’14 in particular gives a standout performance as Nick, Patricia’s husband. His delivery of lines laced with dry wit is unparalleled, and he convincingly portrays a devastatingly devoted and perhaps rightfully jealous husband. His performance brings the otherwise serious show some much deserved levity.
Rachel Saunders ’13 also gives a powerful performance as Patricia, especially in conveying her emotional transformation over the course of the play’s 15-year chronology. She is undeniably believable as a woman who has lost faith in the passionate love of her youth and has resigned to a more predictable state of emotional affairs. Erin O’Brien ’16 and Jordan Adelson ’14 give strong performances, though not as impressive and convincing as those of Giovine and Saunders. Adelson’s character spends much of the play angrily defending himself, his decisions and his artwork, but Adelson’s portrayal of anger is not always as convincing as it could be. His portrayal of his character’s transformation over the course of the play’s chronology is less dynamic than that of Saunders, but still rather effective. O’Brien has a relatively small role, but she plays it well and her German accent is delightful.
The design and technical work of the show is well assembled but unspectacular. The set serves its purposes well and proves simple and elegant yet versatile. But it is truly the performances by the actors that carry the show. The set transitions, however, are remarkable and effective; the music chosen conveys well the sense of haunting that comes hand-in-hand with traversing memories. The decision to show a film reel on the side of the stage is an insightful though perhaps not inventive way to convey the chronological shifts to the audience.
Intime’s decision to showcase a play with a number of potent themes percolating throughout was bold but effective. All in all, "Sight Unseen" is a solid show with some standout performances — definitely worth seeing.
3.5 out of 5 paws
Pros: Impressive performances; intriguing and relevant material.
Cons: Less inspired set and technical design.