Blindness

By Sandi Durell . . .

The much talked about Blindness by Jose Saramago (adapted for stage by award winning Simon Stephens- The Curious Incident of the Dog . . .) whisked to New York City via the Donmar Warehouse, is currently housed at the Daryl Roth Theatre. It’s a chilling production of sound with fluorescent lighting effects in yellow, red, blue hanging horizontally and vertically (created by Jessica Hung Han Yun) – moving up and down to accentuate the emotional swings of which there are many. The topic: not unlike what the world has been experiencing for over a year . . . a pandemic of epic proportions. But this pandemic is white blindness.

In 70 minutes, a socially distanced and masked audience, wearing headphones awaiting them on the backs of their two-person chairs, is swept into a world of fear, disbelief and ultimate terror. With the blow of one remarkable voice, Juliet Stevenson, the lone sighted survivor in this dystopian world, we hear the voices of hundreds . . . of their pleas, chaos, confusion and ultimate violence and death. A small portion of an entire society seeking to find bare essentials like food, water and shelter (at the Hospital where it all unfolds), where civility is a thing of the past as the world descends into a living hell.

As this dystopian world uncoils, we are strongly aware of the blackness of the human soul; testing the strengths and weaknesses of who we are as a collective and individually on every level imaginable. Those that will and can survive and do by any means preying on the weak.

It is the ugliest of metaphors for a collective experience during our time of crisis; an eye opener into the human spirit of how we adjust – – it’s good vs. evil. Blindness provides a roadmap of how an entire world either learns to adapt without sight or perishes. Ah, yes, we look, but do we see?

Walter Meierjohann directs with authority and brilliance. But it is Stevenson’s audible abilities as she goes from bare whispers over my shoulder to harsh words, cries, shouts and despair . . . she, the lone survivor in a world of white darkness. Ben and Max Bingham provide the impeccable sound design.

Daryl Roth Theatre

The 2008 film with Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo (which I haven’t seen based on Nobel Prize winning Jose Saramago’s book) received mixed reviews.

The ending here is sudden; a feeling of wanting more prevails. We are cut off, cut out as the exiting theater doors open, wishing the experience were more than auditory. . . longing for live actors.

Daryl Roth Theatre, 101 East 15 Street, NYC, 70 minutes www.blindnessevent.com

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