We’re in the bar in Bayonne, New Jersey. That’s across the river from Brooklyn and south of Manhattan. It’s a dive called Oliver’s. These two broads come in. One is named Debby and the other Beth. I don’t think they’ve ever been out of Jersey. Being a Californian, it took me quite awhile to interpret their accent. They were dressed like, well I don’t want too be uncomplimentary, sorta flashy, ya might say. . . weird, really weird those two.
Fortunately I was sitting in the Cygnet Theatre watching the opening of Backyard Production’s Hysterical Blindness. It seems that Debby had just had that psychological problem. Debby (Jessica John) and Beth (Amanda Sitton) are checking out the dudes at Oliver’s, a local bar. They’re keeping Bobby (Jonathan Sachs) the bar tender busy replenishing their drinks.
In the meantime Debby’s mom, waitress Virginia (Jill Drexler), does snare a nice, plain sort named Nick (Dale Morris). Drexler and Morris are a convincing couple, falling in love and enjoying the company of each other. Sadly Debbie doesn’t understand the positive nature of her mother’s relationship.
Debby’s man-frustration creates tensions at home. She treats her mother poorly and isn’t even too nice to her best friend, Beth. These are all signs of her desperation, her need to be loved, and her inability to understand her needs rationally.
She snares Rick (Dylan Seaton). Hey, he feels, a one-night stand is just great. She, however, is seeing wedding bells. Seaton’s Rick is cocky. He’s bedded the babe and intends to move on. She does not understand his indifference. Debby is devastated, but now, finally, starting on a path to maturity . . . I think.
Hysterical Blindness is an actress’es dream. Jessica John lives Debby on stage. Through an authentic accent we see her frustration. We end up feeling her pain and rejoice, somewhat, in her semi-growing up. As her sidekick, Amanda Sitton is a perfect foil, two lonely women in the quest for a permanent man. Beth did have a man once. Now she has a young daughter.
Director Gercke has taken full advantage of his excellent cast, bringing believability to the production. He also takes advantage of Cygnet’s wide stage, creating several locations as well as using the rotating stage for two perspectives of Oliver’s.
Eric Lotze’s lighting design isolates the playing areas well. M. Scott Grabau’s sound design sets the late ’80s feel and often adds a coda to some of the scenes.
While a bit talky, we are offered a slice of life of these people of Bayonne, New Jersey. Hysterical Blindness is also a reflection of playwright Laura Cahill’s past. While Debby and Beth may not act like adults, the themes are. The performances are worth the price of admission. Just don’t let Debby or Beth flirt with you.
Jill Drexler, Jessica John, Dale Morris, Jonathan Sachs, Dyland Seaton, Amanda Sitton
Costume Design Jessica John, Scenic Design Tim Wallace, Light Design Eric Lotze, Sound Design M. Scott Grabau, SM Chelsea Kashin, Producers Jessica John & Lauren Wilson
Author: Laura Cahill
Director: Francis Gercke
Date Reviewed: April 20, 2008
Dates: Thursday to Sunday, thru May 11, 2008
Running Time: 71 minutes
Caution Guidance: Mature audience
Backyard Productions (playing at)
6663 El Cajon Blvd, Suite N
San Diego, CA
Box Office Phone: 619 995-2225