‘Sight for Sore Eyes’ – Ensemble Theatre envisions new collaborative work

‘Sight for Sore Eyes’ – by Ensemble Theatre of Chattanooga Martin played by Hunter Rodgers

Sight for Sore Eyes‘ opens on the Ensemble Theatre stage as Martin is informed that he is going blind due to a genetic, degenerative disease and neither his hippie mama, nor her blessed kale can save his sight.  He has to learn how to adapt.  His subconscious mind works overtime to process what his field of vision no longer will.   ETC’s collaborative creation takes the audience through Martin’s process of reconciling with fate that has blindsided him.

Martin’s loved ones become an amalgamation of his inner voices.  They speak to him as his eyes, lecturing him about not seeing the beauty in life when he had the chance, criticizing him for boring them with only the mundane.  He meets with his inner guide, who appears as his best friend and brother-in-law dressed in a toga wearing high tops, disheveled and imploring Martin to look on the bright side.   But, why does everyone keep bringing up Martin’s loss of vision through figures of speech?  Can Martin see it through?

As the play progresses, the world of Martin Kale dims.  He must learn to find his way in the dark.   He fears that this inherited disease will also effect his unborn daughter.  He is angry with his mother for not telling him that he may go blind, as her mother and grandmother had.   He is a “sight for sore eyes”, wallowing in pity, fearing that life itself will disappear alongside his vision.  Martin is played with care and haunting tenderness by Hunter Rodgers in this original work.  His anger is palpable, but this character is also anchored by his family.

Martin’s doctor/mother is played by Robbye Lewis.   As the doctor, she tells Martin that there is no way around it, he will be blind within a year’s time.  As his mother, she comes to Martin from the beyond.  She is the mama of his memories, off on one of her spiritual tangents and reassuring him that all he has to do is to believe in miracles and he will be cured.   She dances and chants over him with fervor.  But, he has seen it all before.

Martin also has imaginary conversations with his unborn child, Cobalt, played by Makenzie Young.  She loves her father and he her.  But, he will not be able to watch her grow up and fears that he has already failed as a father.

Riley, played by Andrea-Taylor Ward is Martin’s wife.  She is a working artist, busy with life and pregnant with their first child.  Riley is annoyed by Martin’s self-pitying indulgences.  She is fine to work and carry on for them.  And, she will have none of Martin’s fears of passing the degenerative eye-sight on to their daughter.  But, there is more to their story than this.  Riley is hard to read, perhaps she suffers from his absence and is jealous of what his impending blindness has taken from them.  Hard shelled, she will never show it.

Her brother is Martin’s best friend and has been since high school, named Paulie and played by Dakota Brown.  Martin and Paulie play cards and chess, as they process the implications of Martin’s loss of sight.  Paulie provides Martin with relief  from the weight of the burden that he bares.  Martin relies on Paulie, subjecting his friend to the utterance of his greatest fears.  Paulie handles whatever Martin throws at him.  He is a true friend to the grieving Martin.

‘Sight for Sore Eyes’ delicately weaves life’s harsh realities with the wisdom of great care and concern.  There is no stone unturned in Martin’s reconciliation with the loss of one of his five senses.  Through a series of non-linear vignettes, the audience is shown how a families’ love can save a man who feels cheated by an unforeseen genetic precondition.  I was not sad for Martin, rather I saw him as fortunate and I wanted him to win and he does.   It’s a tender play, rewarding and redemptive and tinged by the surreal.

Co-directed by Christy Gallo and John Thomas Cecil, ‘Sight for Sore Eyes’ runs two more weekends, thru March 24th, 2013 at Ensemble Theatre of Chattanooga.   Click here for tickets and more information from ETC.

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