By Ivan Dimitrov
Directed by Samuel Buggeln
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited
In Ivan Dimitrov’s “The Eyes of Others,” The First Man (Evan Zes) and the Second Man (Michael Frederic) spend their one-hour lunch break together downtown on the Square avoiding food and, instead, using the time to ponder the meaning of existence. Their absurdist conversation brings into sharp focus the realities of the somewhat meaninglessness of work, leisure, economy, and future. They chat about moving forward and the importance of being right and how disastrous a hideous death would be. What really concerns these “Everymen” however is the thought of being anonymous.
The Second Man asks, “Haven’t you ever felt small and anonymous? Just another guy in line at the store, just another guy walking down the sidewalk, just another guy. And all that while the newspapers and magazines can’t stop talking about what the celebrities are doing. It has a pretty depressing effect. Let them say what they will about modern man’s problems. About alienation, isolation, virtualization. About world hunger, ecological destruction, and global warming. Modern man’s problem is anonymity. Thirty-odd years ago being anonymous wasn’t the end of the world, there was even a sort of charm in it. But today it’s truly a nightmare to be anonymous amidst this whole flow of information. To be anonymous on the Internet. To be anonymous at home, to be anonymous on the street. Better to be anything else, as long as it’s not anonymous.”
The struggle to avoid anonymity drives the plot of “The Eyes of Others” from the play’s exposition through its resolution. First Man is anonymous even when he visits the salesperson (Zoe Winters) in the new underwear store on the Square on the day his friend is home sick. His plaintive cry, “Aren’t you going to pay attention to me?” is the universal human cry for significance. When the salesperson confronts him about why he is wasting her time, he replies, “I just want to look around, to warm up, to chat a bit.” He wonders why they can’t just “keep each other company.” Even when Second Man is home with his wife Jackie (Danielle Skraastad), he feels unnoticed and spends his time chatting with his friend on the phone.
In order to avoid being anonymous, the friends create a totem: the Voyeur. In the fashion of the mythopopetic men’s movement, First and Second Man create meaning through the one who watches them every day on the Square: a psychological totem that has special meaning to them because he is always watching them. He knows who they are and that they exist. He might be “an odd duck” but he is still useful “in small doses.” If nothing else, the one who watches them “silently confirms that things will remain the same.” Think stability in global and economic chaos.
During one lunch break, the two friends notice their Watcher, their Voyeur has died. On his demise, they realize the importance of their mythopoetic construct: “Happiness is possible only through the eyes of others.” They cannot survive without that construct and realize they have to reconstruct it. One of them agrees to be the new “eyes of others” for the other. This is a powerful decision: they take responsibility for removing the fear of anonymity from their universe. They take charge. In fear and trembling unto death, they take on universal loneliness and angst. They understand – and they invite the audience to understand – that “the only thing we have is ourselves.” That was not easy for First and Second Man to realize. But they did and every audience member needs to arrive at that same conclusion as well.
Under Samuel Buggeln’s exacting and perfect direction, the ensemble cast brings “The Eyes of Others” to a haunting reality. In particular, Evan Zes and Michael Frederic’s timing is spot on and Zoe Winters creates a character working in a meaningless job with dynamic precision.
The absurdist lens is the clearest of lenses. The absurdist writer observes what is absurd in the world – he or she does not create absurdity. Ivan Dimitrov’s compelling “The Eyes of Others” gives the audience a rare glimpse into the absurdity of modern humankind’s existence and proffers an “alternative” to the slow death of anonymity.
THE EYES OF OTHERS
“The Eyes of Others” is a Bug Company Production (Carlynn Houghton and Simon Pratt) presented by The New Ohio Theatre. Translated from the Bulgarian by Angela Rodel, the play is directed by Samuel Buggeln. The design team includes David Arsenault (Set Design), Anna-Lee Craig (Sound Design) and Max Doolittle (Lighting Design).
With: Matthew Frazier, Michael Frederic, Danielle Skraastad, Zoe Winters, and Evan Zes.
The Eyes of Others runs from September 6 - 28, 2012 in a limited engagement at the New Ohio Theatre, located at 154 Christopher Street between Greenwich and Washington Streets in New York City. Performances are Wednesdays - Saturdays at 7:30pm with additional performances on Sunday, September 23 at 3pm and Tuesday, September 25 at 7:30pm. Tickets are $18 for adults and $12 for students/seniors and can be purchased online at www.NewOhioTheatre.org or by calling SmartTix at . For more information visit www.NewOhioTheatre.org.