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The Tempest

Blind

Craig Wright's pretentious update of Oedipus Rex provokes unintentional laughs despite the committed performances of Veanne Cox and Seth Numrich.

By New York City
Seth Numrich and Veanne Cox in Blind
(© Sandra Coudert)
Seth Numrich and Veanne Cox in Blind
(© Sandra Coudert)
The adjectives "pretentious" and "silly" are among the worst that can be applied to a play. Unfortunately, both can be attached to Craig Wright's Blind, now inviting unintentional laughs at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. Here, Wright appropriates the ancient tragedy Oedipus Rex to make a few pressing comments on the devastating effects of entrenched denial. One only wishes he did this in a less ludicrous way.

It's Wright's notion to update Sophocles' play to the present so that Oedipus (Seth Numrich) can -- in one narrative innovation -- get out his Smartphone and text erstwhile Thebes ruler Creon. The furious Oedipus does this on a red-and-black Takeshi Kata set looking like nothing so much as an upscale brothel boudoir. This S&M-suggestive environment is also where Jocasta (Veanne Cox) rises from an upstage tub to reveal herself full-frontally nude before eventually wrapping costume designer Anne Kennedy's jagged-print dress around herself.

Indeed, Blind takes up the classic plot at the exact moment when Oedipus faces the fact that Jocasta is not only his wife, but also his mother. The ensuing action revolves around the disillusioned king's trying to get his imperious wife-mother to admit she's known of the situation all along but has never admitted as much. Into the brouhaha, Wright introduces a maid (Danielle Slavick), who overhears the sordid details through the bedroom door and who also has a relationship to Oedipus that goes beyond tidying up after him and his older queen. And for a turbulent 75 minutes, the three of them trash out who knew what when and how it will inevitably affect future conjugal happiness.

When Sophocles was composing his play, he was intent on inducing shock and awe in audiences at the inescapable part destiny plays in human lives -- an oracle having announced without fear of contradiction that the male child of Jocasta and Laius was fated to marry his mother. Conversely, what Wright wants to demonstrate is that anyone's choosing to remain blind to the facts -- as both Oedipus and Jocasta are revealed to be doing -- seals his or her own doom. And to make the point, Wright plays fast and loose with Sophocles' particular plot twists.

The only thing keeping Blind from being a complete calamity is the actors' commitment to it. This is no mean feat, since they spend two-thirds of the proceedings shouting myriad wordy speeches at the top of their lungs. Congrats, too, to director Lucie Tiberghien for seeing that as the actors go about their dispiriting business, they give the impression of believing the play they're vivifying is as meaningful as Wright evidently must think it is. If the title Blind applies to anything, it's to Wright's inability to see the tomfoolery in which he's allowed himself to indulge.


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