KPBS AIRDATE: January 20, 1993 >
It’s kind of like the blind leading the blind. The main character in Jim Geoghan’s “Light Sensitive” has no vision. The same may be said for the director and for the Globe itself for choosing this unimaginative fluff piece.
It seems as if, once a year, the Globe trots out a tired new play. For the life of me, I can’t figure this out, with all their resources, script availability, and general good sense and taste. But, here we go again. Last year it was “Bargains”; this year’s season opener is no bargain.
“Light Sensitive” brings out more stereotypes of blind people, New York Italians, male bonding, and bushy-tailed do-gooder female volunteers than you can shake ten white canes at.
Thomas Hanratty lost his vision eight years ago in a freak, drunken brawl with a car battery. He used to be a cab driver. Now he’s a bitter, cynical, unwashed, foul-mouthed recluse who lets his mail pile up in the bathtub while he awaits periodic visits from his gavón friend Lou D’Marco. Lou’s not exactly your New Age, nineties kind of guy. Light on the sensitive, to mess with the play’s unmotivated title (Tom claims to see nothing, not even shadows or shapes, so he’s not ‘light sensitive’).
Now Lou, here’s a real man. He talks about chicks’ big “bazookas,” takes a course at the New School just to bed down “college girls,” and, for some totally unnecessary reason, mounts a tasteless act two diatribe against lesbians. He’s the kind of guy you’d like to fix up with your sister — if you lived in the reptile house.
It’s the morning before Christmas Eve, and Lou informs Tom that he’s moving to Vermont…. a state neither one of them could probably spell. Lou has managed to charm the bazookas off some college girl and they’re off to the frozen north. He’s arranged for a volunteer from the Lighthouse for the Blind to look in on Tom, to read his mail, etcetera, etcetera. Okay, so you know the inevitable etcetera… which occurs immediately after Tom refuses to talk to the woman and she threatens to shoot him.
Actually, the most interesting action takes place during the intermission, when Tom’s horrendously filthy apartment is miraculously turned into a neat, clean, Hell’s Kitchen heaven. It’s no less the magic of theater that the transformation of Thomas happens in six short days. It took God that long to create characters like this; He could never clean up their act that fast.
There are several other blind spots in the play. Tom’s run-in with battery acid burned out his corneas, yet Edna tells him his eyes look normal. Impossible. Tom says, after eight years of blindness, he’s lost all sense of what he looks like. Improbable. He tells Lou that he likes Edna’s scent, but he can’t tell when she’s in the room, standing five feet away from him, pretending not to be there. Unlikely. And, on opening night, when the champagne cork refused to pop, Tom actually looked in the bottle. Unbelievable.
Most of the laughs are pretty cheap. Most of the direction is pretty static. Andrew J. Traister, who certainly should know better, seems to have forgotten what it means to work theater in the round. I must’ve had the worst seat in the house. (Be sure to check the nearby furniture; at all costs, avoid sitting behind the refrigerator). Tom sat with his back to me for at least half the play. Several pieces in Nick Reid’s undistinguished set were too high for the theater’s sight lines.
The performances by Joel Anderson, Matt Landers and Victoria Ann-Lewis, are credible, but everybody seems to be working awfully hard. They have to, battling the hokey material, which gives improved perception to a blind character, but no insight to the audience — about blindness, love, New York, or even New Year’s Eve.
Maybe this would’ve worked better as a Christmas show, when critics are more warm and forgiving, and having a trifle tied up with a big, fat, sloppy red ribbon might be acceptable. But in the cold, post-holiday glare, well, the play is light all right, but hardly sensitive.
I’m Pat Launer, for KPBS radio.
©1993 Patté Productions Inc.