Against a backdrop of trendy dramedies and raunchy musicals, the Wheel Theatre Company’s The Blind leads its audience to a cold, dark forest a century old. Your experience depends on how far you are willing to follow.
The show begins when eight blind figures wake up lost in the woods, thirsty, hungry, and increasingly cold. They could try to get back home, but find reason after reason to stay put and wait for a caretaker to arrive, quite like Samuel Beckett’s famous duo Waiting for Godot.
Only Beckett wrote his similar work 63 years after this one. Wheel Theatre Company’s show is a translation of the playwright Maurice Maeterlink’s play, written back in 1890 and contributing to his Nobel Price in Literature in 1911.
closes July 22, 2017
While they share an unearthly callousness towards hopeless characters, Maeterlink keeps his characters unnamed and mostly unknown, with only quick hints to their histories. Translator, adapter, director, and sound designer Jack Read helps lead the ensemble to a nice variety in their vocal characters, though they have virtually no movement to express themselves.
The Blind is a barebones show. The nameless cast wear the same loose black outfits and neutral white masks. They rarely move, and some hardly speak. On a meta-theatrical level, the characters aren’t given names, even in the program! It draws us into the show’s oppressive misery.
Not your typical madcap Fringe show.
Some tactics work better than others. A bush of thorns is briefly mimed, then safely ignored. A baby prop is handled lifelessly, with a head so small that it could never be mistaken for anything other than a doll. And the sound, so vital to a show about the blind, is mixed loud and clumsy. While the characters act like they slowly notice a sound bleeding into their perception, those sounds typically wait until cued and then barge in like a sitcom’s screwball comedic relief.
Prepared audience members will find The Blind intriguing and well-executed by the cast. By leaving reality well behind, Maeterlink and Read dare the audience to join them in a much darker place. If there’s one way that it is a typical Fringe show, The Blind is as gutsy and bold as anything written today.
The Blind. Written by Maurice Maeterlinck. Translated, adapted, and directed by Jack Read. Performed by Vanessa Dos Santos, Nick Duckworth, Elizabeth Floyd, Scott Gaines, Tamar Gasko, Brooke Gorsica, Adrian Iglesias, Douglas Luman, Dina Soltan, and Elizabeth Ung. Assistant directed and stage managed by Gabriel Komisar. Assistant stage managed and lighting by Brooke Gorsica. Movement coaching by Grace Anne Roberts. Props and costumes by Elizabeth Floyd. Original music by Jackson Floyd. Sound by Jack Read. Produced by the Wheel Theatre Company. Reviewed by Marshall Bradshaw.