Sight Unseen at the MTC

We had tickets to see Sight Unseen a few weeks ago and had to reschedule the date. There are a lot of benefits of being a member of any of the theater groups in NYC such as MTC, the Public Theater or the Roundabout Theater. There are other organizations too. One is you are supporting the arts which is a great thing. Another is that if you need to make a change in your date, you can. That is a huge bonus.

We were members of the Manhattan Theater Club this year. There is always the hit and miss chance with some of the productions that are put on. This year, I found that the majority of their productions were not very good. Sight Unseen was so fantastic that they redeemed themselves last night. We will be members again this year.

I enjoy theater that is drama with a small cast. So, Sight Unseen fit that bill. 4 actors, 2 acts that are each broken up into 4 different parts and a thought provoking drama. Also, incredible actors who have been on the stage for years.

The play revolves around an artist, played by Ben Shenkman, a fantastic actor, who is making his debut overseas with a retrospective of his work. He goes back to visit a former lover that he knows owns a piece of something he painted years ago as a student. He is an arrogant shallow successful artist that u wonder if he is really an artist or something that was built by the galleries and public relations people. He comes from a Jewish family that seemed to have seeped into each decision that he had made in his life. Once they die, he seems confused about who he actually is. When he visits his former lover, played by Laura Linney, it appears that she is the only thing in his life who was actually real.

Laura Linney is an absolutely incredible actress. Her character is living in Norfolk, England when her former lover comes to visit. She has married an archeologist, she is one too. The 2 of them are barely making ends meet. Her husband, played by Byron Jennings, has incredible stage presence. When he speaks, all eyes focus on him. He’s amazing. There relationship seems to be affected by the prior relationship of the artist and his past lover.

The scenes take place randomly. The first act breaks down into 4 pieces. One being where the former lovers reconnect at the house in England. The second in the Art Gallery in London a few days later being interviewed by a German reporter, played by Ana Reeder, who is also excellent. She interrogates the artist about his work which reveals a lot of things about him as a person. The 3rd part is back to the farm house an hour before the first scene where the lovers reconnect. The fourth part is in Brooklyn, 15 years earlier. Then we go to Act 2. The first part is the farmhouse a few hours, at dinner, after the lovers reconnect. Part 2 is the art gallery, continuing in the interview. Part 3 is the farm house a few hours after the dinner and Part 4 is 17 years ago when the artist and his former lover meet.

It seems like a lot to focus on but it really works. As each pieces goes back and forth, it reveals something of the characters to u. Who is this artist? Is he really a great artist or just a successful one? What did the lover represent to him? Why are they no longer together? Why did their break up leave each of them with a different mark on their past? Why did the lover meet and marry the man she did? As the interviewer delves deeper into the artists work, who is this guy?

All and all, a real thought provoking play. The first time this play was shown was 15 years ago at MTC. The one thing that I really like about this play is how incredibly modern it is. I hope that they reproduce this play again in 15 years, because it will be interesting to see again. Also, the story of people’s relationships, past histories through family and life and how they affect the person we become and want to become or wish we could change is always food for thought.