Backstage West

Every time Henry (Stephen Kline) closes his eyes at night, he has visions of the devil and wakes up screaming.  His time hiding out in an isolated Mexican jungle was intended to be a retreat from the all-consuming guilt of his failed marriage, but instead all he can see is where he went wrong.  Then the hellishness of Henry’s life escalates sharply when he takes a walk in the vine-draped undergrowth after a particularly bad nightmare and is threatened at knifepoint by a bandit named Amado (Danny Cistone), who wants to cut out his eyes.

It seems Amado, too, is trying to live with guilt and a broken heart.  As a younger man, a bullet shot from his gun ricocheted and blinded his cherished Consuela’s father in one eye.  Now he is trying to make a macabre sort of amends for the horrible accident by bringing his lifelong love what she desires:  a bouquet of blue eyes.  So far Amado has robbed 16 men of their eyes, and all because each time he does it, the beautiful Consuela (Brenda Romero at the performance reviewed) manages to smile a little bit at his gift.

There is a subtle and bizarre sort of poetry in Eyes for Consuela, Sam Shepard’s stage adaptation of Octavio Paz’s classic story, The Blue Bouquet, which is tingled with sadness and wisdom.  The majority of the action takes place between the depressed and sleep deprived Henry and his captor, Amado, whose quiet, menacing intensity and philosophical musings jeopardize the last vestiges of Henry’s sanity.  Director Crystal K. Craft has much to work with in Kline and Cistone (who designed the rag-draped scenery and nuanced lighting).  Both men are gifted actors who effortlessly manage the sway of power as it shifts back and forth.  Craft guides the pair with great sensitivity to mine the desperation of their souls, helping them find humor, horror, and eventually a sense of hope.  Romero carries an appropriately unearthly presence, and Rick Almada has a rural charm as Viejo, owner of the strange “hotel” where Henry is staying.  While the ethereal elements of the story may mystify some, the overall high quality of the production is a wonderful theatrical sight for sore eyes.

By Terri Roberts