by: JK Clarke
The problem with producing the lesser-known pieces of a great artist’s work is that they are often unknown for a reason. Such is the case with the great Sam Shepard’s Eyes For Consuela, now being presented by the White Horse Theater Company at the Gene Frankel Theatre. It’s not that the material is so inaccessible, but that perhaps there isn’t enough of it to make for a feature length play.
In Eyes For Consuela, we meet Henry (Richard Fiske), a middle aged American, who has gone to the Mexican jungle on an escape vacation: his wife has left him and he’s gone to mull things over and, hopefully, find himself. Awakened by tormented dreams, he goes out for a walk in the middle of the night, despite being warned not to by Viejo, a very stereotypical Mexican villager: a gray-haired, bearded old man with an eye patch, clad in loose white clothes, wearing a straw hat and a sarape. And sitting in a rocking chair, naturally. While out walking, Henry is, of course, abducted by Amado (Roberto Adolpho), who sports a machete and says he wants to cut out Henry’s blue eyes as a gift for his wife, Consuela, who wants a bouquet of them.
Clearly, this is surreal, figurative Shepard territory, and the action takes place in the course of a night, a brief slice of life, as we’d expect of the playwright. But the problem is that there isn’t very far to go with the story. Henry protests that his eyes are brown, not blue, and he argues through the night, and over drinks, with Amado who has come back to his cabin with him. For all we know, this is still part of Henry’s tormented, practically malarial dream, but it’s hard to say for sure. Amado’s menacing seems very real, and Henry even encounters the idyllic Consuela (Marieta Cadrrero) who turns out to be a ghost, and is the figment of Amado’s guilt.
Director Cyndy A. Marion has put together a very strong production, on Andis Gjoni’s rustic set, coupled with Debra Leigh Siegel’s very evocative lighting. As Henry, Richard Fiske is terrific. We feel his panic and anxiety deeply (and wish he’d just leave while Amado sleeps, but that’s besides the point), and the sweat pouring off his brow in the jungle heat is palpable. Aside from channelling Keanu Reaves a bit too much with his head bobbing and swaying, Adolpho’s madman Amado is indeed quite menacing and upredictable.
The play has a nice aesthetic, but as a whole it’s difficult to get through. It’s too long-winded, making it burdensome to really care about any of the characters much. For true fans of the playwright, this is a great opportunity to see a very seldom-produced piece but there’s a reason why it doesn’t turn up very often: Eyes For Consuela is just not up to par with Shepard’s finer work.
Eyes For Consuela. Presented by the White Horse Theater Company, through February 21 at the Gene Frankel Theatre (24 Bond Street, at Lafayette). www.whitehorsetheater.com
*Photo: John Robert Hoffman