Seeing the Play SIGHT UNSEEN

When I spoke with my friend Ed Friedman, the director of the free show Sight Unseen, he mentioned how the production is an example of a good business model for independent theater companies.  Produced by M&M Performing Arts Company Inc., it has been traveling to local libraries in New York and Connecticut, delighting audiences and probably seen by more people than if it were playing in one single space. It harkens back to when performers would go out to the public, acting in marketplaces, parks, and squares, invited to gardens and homes, and if they were lucky, even before royalty, instead of just hoping that the public would come to them.  The success of the show is due to the talented cast and crew involved, as well as to the play selection (presented by special arrangement with Dramatists Play Service, Inc., New York.)

The thought provoking script by Donald Margulies has multiple settings, but lends itself to creative staging that is simple enough for the transitory demands of the production, yet is by no means "bare bones." Various locations are brought to life with economic use of a table, high chairs, a bunk bed, wall screens, and a nice assortment of props. In a small area that never seems cramped, the actors believably transition from a farmhouse in Norfolk, England, to an art gallery in London, to a bedroom in Brooklyn, and to a painting studio at a New York State art college.

Like the playwright's Pulitzer Prize winning Dinner with Friends, this is a fascinating character study.  The story itself delves into broad yet nuanced ideas about art, social class, relationships, and culture clashes, especially regarding the lead characters' religious heritage as it impacts his love life and career. The plot is non-linear, a writing gimmick that can be confusing or annoying in lesser hands, but is handled exceptionally well here thanks to the words on the page and the skills of all involved.

P.J. Glazer as the star artist Jonathan and Robin Gorn as his old flame Patricia both do a convincing job during their emotionally awkward reunion and as younger versions of the characters during the revealing flashback scenes. Steve Plaushin is brilliant as Nick, Patricia's poor British husband, and Nadia Winter is perfectly cast as Grete, the German art critic who interviews Jonathan before his big gallery show debut in the U.K.

It's an engaging drama from beginning to end. The final performance will be this Saturday, November 21, at 2 p.m. at the Greenwich Library in Connecticut.