Sight unseen is the way most Spokane theatergoers will be purchasing tickets to “Sight Unseen.”
After all, where else could we have seen it?
This Donald Margulies play had an off-Broadway run in 1992 and has never been seen in Spokane or anywhere else in the state. However, if reviews from New York are any indication, this is one sight-unseen product that should turn out to be rewarding, or at the very least, thought-provoking.
“Mr. Margulies makes the individual scenes crackle with biting dialogue, fully observed characterizations and unexpected psychological complexities,” wrote Frank Rich of the New York Times, when the play opened in 1992 at the Manhattan Theater Club.
Margulies is, in fact, one of the most acclaimed American playwrights to emerge in the last decade. His “The Loman Family Picnic” was an off-Broadway success, and “Sight Unseen” won a 1992 Obie Award, the off-Broadway version of the Tony Award.
In “Sight Unseen,” Margulies takes on the world of high-priced art. It’s about Jonathan Waxman, an American artist who has become enormously successful.
Waxman has a long waiting list of wealthy patrons, many of whom purchase his paintings before he has even painted them: sight unseen. Margulies chronicles Waxman’s journey from idealistic young painter to overhyped art superstar, and he combines this story with a searching look at the man’s relationship with his first lover, a woman who was once his model.
“In ‘Sight Unseen,’ the metaphor of the title extends beyond a hollow painter’s distant relationship to his art, to a collection of long intertwined and emotionally dishonest personal relationships,” wrote Rich.
Be prepared for Margulies to play some tricks with time in this script. It is set essentially in the present, during the artist’s midlife crisis, but each act contains a series of flashbacks. Time goes in reverse trajectory: Each act begins in the present, then gradually moves backward to a point 17 years before the first.
The play is serious in intent but it also contains a great deal of humor. In fact, Rich labeled the show a “smart and sad new comedy.”
The Interplayers’ production is directed by artistic director Joan Welch, who says Margulies is one of her favorite playwrights.
Jonathan Waxman will be played by Sam Toffler, who hasn’t been seen on the Interplayers stage since the 1989-1990 season. Mary Ann Seibert plays his old flame and her husband will be played by Cheyenne Wilbur. Mieke ter Poorten plays Grete, a probing and sometimes hostile interviewer.
MEMO: This sidebar ran with story: “Sight Unseen,” opens tonight at the Spokane Interplayers Ensemble, S174 Howard, and continues through Jan. 28. Curtain is 8 p.m on Fridays and Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. There will be matinees at 2 p.m. on Saturday, and Jan. 11 and 14. Tickets: Call 455-PLAY