By Brian Friel
Directed by Alan Bruun
Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando, FL
Jesus casually brought eyesight to the blind, but He never stuck around to help with the post operative depression. We spend our entire childhood learning to see and hear, and a sensory skill granted late in life can devastate. Molly Sweeney (Katrina Ploof) was happy enough in her own dark worlds of sensation and no idea a glimpse could reveal what she took months to understand. We join her in a dark room. The lights rise reluctantly as a grudging concession to the sighted. Molly only knows the world one touch at a time – A cat is just fur and a tail and some soft feet. Her concept is radically different form ours, and that flavors her thought process and sense of self. Relentlessly self-improving dreamer Frank Sweeney (Sam Hazell) marries her as a project, and drags her from darkness into light. He’s always up for a challenge, whether raising Iranian goats in the Irish Sea, feeding the starving Ethiopians in the horn of Africa, or moving grumpy badgers form an oncoming irrigation project. Dr. Rice (Mark Ferrera) will accept a challenge as well, but he’s more desperate. His rising star in the ophthalmological sky crashed when his wife left him and he took to drink, and he’s in need of some professional salvation. Everyone wants Molly to see, but it’s a risky operation and the thought “What’s she got to lose?” get explained in detail during the second act.
There’s more than one way to read this trilogy of monologues. You can take it as a woman trapped in the darkness longing for a world she’s only heard of, or a metaphor for Ireland and the well intentioned meddling that keeps it torn apart, or as a level headed woman who flew too close the sun and melted her wings. There’s enough layering here to prove the Pythagorean Theorem, if you want to. Ploof’s diminutive build and practiced enthusiasm make her the lovable aunt you never had, and Hazell support lasts for the entire medical operation but fades when Molly ceases to hold his interest. Ferrera was an excellent hard drinking eye surgeon. He gets through half a bottle of generic Irish whiskey, and seemed way to jittery to operate. Still, his operation was technically successful although the patient’s soul died.
Pour a drink in an Irishman, and he’ll talk your arm off. All this layering of meaning and Navel Gazing began well enough, but once the end point was obvious, there was still a good twenty minutes of wrap-up. With a semi dark room and a glass of wine, it felt like the show could use a bit of an edit
For more information on Mad Cow, please visit http://www.madcowtheatre.com