by Lynn Marie Macy · June 12, 2014
Playwrights on New Plays #87 Lynn Marie Macy shares her thoughts on Blink
Blink, a new script by Phil Porter, comes to 59E59 via The Soho Theatre and Nabokov as part of their Brits Off Broadway Series. Blink is the story of two people, Sophie and Jonah, and their awkward “romance”. Described by the author as a dysfunctional love story, the play takes an unusual path as a Romantic Comedy with a twist.
Sophie and Jonah find themselves alone and lonely in London both having experienced the death of a parent from cancer. Sophie is shy to the point of introversion and having lost her father she feels as though she is becoming invisible to the rest of society. “It’s like I’m disappearing. It’s the same if I stare at my hand. It’s like it’s fading…I lack visibility”. She is let go from her job for this reason and sets up her two flat home she has just inherited from her father as a rental.
Jonah too has inherited – his mother buried money by the shed of their religious commune and left Jonah a note suggesting he do something with his life. He travels to London and rents a downstairs flat. Jonah’s earlier rural life on the farm included work as a night watchman. “I am telling you this so you see how keeping watch, it becomes a habit for me.” Jonah is obsessed with watching and Sophie thrives on being seen. Sophie sends her new downstairs tenant a baby monitor screen and their wifi relationship begins.
The majority of the play is written in a direct audience address so much so that the audience becomes a third character, again emphasizing the detached voyeuristic theme of the script. There is only one scene in which the two characters interact and speak directly to one another and it makes sense that it is the moment of their physical coming together. Porter’s dialogue is descriptive and direct often employing a witty turn of phrase or an unexpected bit of information that keeps the audience hooked throughout.
The direction by Joe Murphy is extremely creative. His staging smoothly connects the through line of the story while uniquely employing the furniture and props to effectively convey the scenic locations. He keeps the pacing musical allowing for breath and reverberation.
The two actors also play all the other characters they come into contact with by detachedly speaking through a handy microphone. The set design by Hannah Clark fully supports the action of the play, emphasizing the indoor vs. outdoor nature of their lives and experiences. A backdrop of trees and a grassy green floor float two desks with lamps, microphones and multitudinous props in drawers. There are also two cardboard boxes, which contain other props for key moments in the play. Their costumes, also by Clark, are a kind of generic casual in neutral tans but they both sport sky blue stocking feet which was a bit distracting in as much as I kept wondering why they were both wearing blue socks without shoes. But there was more than one mystery left unsolved in Porter’s script.
Lizzy Watts plays Sophie with an earnest naïveté that is both appealing and heartbreaking. She wears her longing on her sleeve and she has us rooting for her happiness from the beginning. Thomas Pickles does perfect justice to Jonah - he comes off very sweet yet at the same time a bit unsavory. Pickles also has the ability to exude “damaged” simply by his demeanor. Both performers bring one hundred percent commitment to their roles, which seem created for them.
In the end, the audience has taken a bittersweet journey with these two dysfunctional characters neither of whom seems to have any ability to maintain a real human connection. If there is a flaw in this absorbing story it is that a key moment feels missing. The play winds down suddenly without a real dénouement and this seems a missed opportunity for conflict and ultimate understanding. Despite this flaw Blink is intriguing and very different - offering a number of fascinating moments and wonderful performances. The play certainly speaks to contemporary electronic disconnection, afterwards you will want to close down the computer, turn off the cell phone and vie for some personal interaction.