Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Blink ***

If you are in the mood for something a bit different, head to 59E59 for this latest entry in their Brits Off Broadway festival. This off-beat love story by Phil Porter has been skillfully crafted, creatively staged, and, most importantly, superbly performed by two fine actors. Sophie (Lizzy Watts) and Jonah (Thomas Pickles) are two socially awkward young people for whom London is a very lonely place. Sophie lives above Jonah as his landlord, but they have never met. Impulsively, she sends him the screen of a baby monitor she had used to look after her late father. He has no idea who sent it, but soon becomes addicted to watching the woman on the screen. When he accidentally finds out who she is, he begins following her everywhere and she pretends not to notice. For a good part of the play, the two address the audience rather than each other. They also play other characters, including a talkative human relations officer and a German conceptual artist, using microphones when they portray them. A good deal of the dialogue at first seems irrelevant, e.g. a detailed plot summary of the soap opera they both watch, but the haziness of the border between background and foreground is part of the off-kilter nature of the play. When an unexpected circumstance leads the two to actually meet, they must learn that a face-to-face relationship is much harder than one based on exhibitionism, voyeurism and stalking. The set design by Hannah Clark, combining generic office furniture with a sylvan backdrop and a grassy surface is both attractive and effective. Her choice of pale beige costumes with sky-blue socks for both actors is apt. Joe Murphy’s direction is admirable. A word of caution: the two friends I ran into afterwards did not share my enthusiasm. Running time: 77 minutes, no intermission.

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