Sunday, May 25, 2008


From the looks of the set--a hospital bed, skewed uneven with elongated legs and a cartoon-like IV angling out on the side--Ian Rowland's Blink looks to be a distorted drama about sickness. Instead, the bed is just an awkward excuse for Mam (Lisa Palfrey) to tell us the story of her wasted life with her once abusive and now life-supported husband, and a reason to bring Si (Sion Pritchard) back home, a reason for him to reconcile with his first love, Kay (Rhian Blythe). The set, like the script, is so focused on telling us things that aren't important to the story that the play itself wanders away from those blink of an eye moments that change us forever. Bogged down in recollection, the whole play seems methodical, less like a blink than a sly wink that's trying too hard to leave an impression.

At the start, Stephen Fisher's direction seems able to carry the different threads of the plot, snapping from character to character with real momentum, conjuring up the pub or the distant past by having the cast reenact everything, like hyperactive children telling a story. But that energy wanes pretty quickly, and then we're stuck in straight accounts that grope at the truth: "Anyway, she smiled at us, we smiled back," says Si. "Then she lifted up her skirt and flapped it. Lick a bit of that! she said. Cut price, two up! My father'd turn in his grave. If only he'd have the decency to lie in it." The transition from his Balham memories to his current thoughts about his father is detached from memory: these moments come across as well-rehearsed, nothing more.

There are some exceptions, most of which remain focused on the young love between Si and Kay. The scene work, which melts into focus from the surrounding text, is far more earnest, and Rhian Blythe's immediate presence gives Sion Pritchard a clear context for his emotions. When Si at last explains to Kay why he'd left so suddenly those seven long years ago, his monologues are pointed, powerful things that leave Mr. Pritchard shaking, and Mrs. Blythe in tears. Unfortunately, just to their left is Lisa Palfrey, just sitting there, glass-eyed and blank, a reminder of how scattered the show's emotional current is. Mrs. Palfrey has some good turns, too, but for the most part seems like a comic afterthought, blurting out cryptic phrases like "Wolf in sheep's clothing" that, even when made clear later, remain somewhat of a distraction.

Two hours, with an intermission, is far too long for a blink (unless the show is trying to conjure up the sort of rapid blinking one gets after opening their eyes from a quick nap). Blink needs a more aggressive sort of storytelling (similar to that of fellow Brit-off-Broadway Yellow Moon) to convey all the various levels of drama; without that, it's just one more thing after another.

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