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Two Themes For The Price Of One: “Before Your Very Eyes”

by Karen Tortora-Lee on May 28, 2010

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Before Your Very Eyes

How you feel about Before Your Very Eyes (Written and Directed by Edward Elefterion) depends very much upon the person you are, what you believe about the events of 9/11, and whether or not you are a person who trusts what they see and takes it for truth, or if you are a person who needs evidence to support everything before you’ll believe it.

Before Your Very Eyes starts off as a piece about raw emotion – but quickly becomes a piece about something quite different.  For the rest of the play it vacillates between moments of poetic beauty and moments of uncompromising activism.

Bobby Abido, Damon Pooser and Sanam Erfani

Bobby Abido, Damon Pooser and Sanam Erfani

The play begins with a scene that brought an event that happened almost a decade ago right back to the present day – two woman: Kate (Elyse Knight) and Evonne (Diana DeLaCruz) waiting in hyper hysteria for word from their husbands, John and Erik.  The disembodied voice of Erik’s cell message (Arthur Aulisi) is ghastly and a little too vivid; Kate is almost burned by what she hears Evonne’s husband Eric yell into the phone.  And hearing the last words of this desperate man only makes her believe more strongly that her own husband, John, will be coming home safely.

When John (Damon Pooser) actually does walk through the door it’s a relief, but a short-lived one.  Now begins the story of how tragedy effects people differently, and how people can abandon each other emotionally when what they’re really trying to do is find one another in the ashes.  The point, and theme, illustrated most poignantly by John and Kate and even Evonne’s story is that the people who were left to deal with the emotional fissure of 9/11 often felt most abandoned not by those who died but rather by those who lived and could no longer connect with each other.

Before Your Very Eyes quickly folds in a second story thread; that of Amir (Bobby Abido) and Lakshmi (Sanam Erfani) who also lost someone during the World Trade Center collapse.  Amir, an inquisitive person by nature, spends that fateful September day snapping photos of what he sees, including people jumping from the buildings.  Confounded by the pieces that don’t add up to him, and wracked with grief over the loss of his brother, Amir begins to amass information he concludes is evidence that the World Trade Center event was an inside job.

At first Lakshmi is terrified by what she perceives as Amir’s crazy ranting.  But soon enough she too becomes convinced that there are a few too many things that don’t make sense to her.  Together they build a website, and eventually a documentary using user-submitted information as evidence to strongly build their case. They address in conversation their need to separate themselves from the “crazies” who are coming up with such ridiculous theories as the event being caused by “Reptilian shape-shifting aliens”.  Amir’s ardent research brings him in contact with both Evonne and John and one by one,  the stories start to go deeper.

If  you are someone who refuses to sit by and be told what to believe, then the Amir character will resonant very strongly with you.  Bobby Abido plays Amir with an anxious energy, he is in constant motion both physically as well as mentally.  As Amir he knows that time has run out and he must do what he can to show people that there is a story that they’re not being told.

Elyse Knight and Damon Pooser

Elyse Knight and Damon Pooser

If you are someone who believes the inward journey is more important that the events around you,  then the Kate character will be your strongest guide through this play.  Elyse Knight takes Kate from panicked to grateful to confused to frustrated, and when she delivers a line to her husband that says (paraphrasing) “Last year I couldn’t wait for you to come home.  Now I wish you never had!” you can feel the anguish she’s going through – as if the World Trade Center spit back a husband from its depths that resembled the man she loved but one who acted completely differently and couldn’t connect with her in the same way ever again.

I”m not sure how I feel about these two themes being mixed together.  Do I think they can co-exist within the same conversation?  Yes.  But do I think they can exist equally - plot-wise  – in the same play?  Not as much.  Each topic is weighty, therefore each carries the mark of a main plot.  Two very strong themes seemingly fighting for the spotlight, neither being relegated to the role of sub-plot does not always equal a play that finds that sweet spot.  While the character of John seems to be the true thread that ties both ends of the story together, I’m not sure that the character creates enough of a balance between the two worlds.  While Damon Pooser does an excellent job with the character of John, there is a large responsibility put on that character’s shoulders.   Overall, I felt Before Your Very Eyes was too sentimental to be strong cautionary tale, but then it was too radical to be an emotional story.  And yet, for some, that may be the perfect way to tell a 9/11 story – for that may be exactly where their own feelings of 9/11 come to rest.  In that respect then this play is a great voice for those who are still confused by the events.

The good news is, if this subject intrigues you, but if you feel puzzled, or driven, or emotional, or anything at all after the performance, you can stick around for a talk back with the ensemble and explore your own feelings with some lively discussion.  Additionally, some  special post show panels will be held:

Friday June 11th: “Historical Events and the Media” – MJ Robinson, Ph.D.

Saturday June 12th: “Memory, Media and Misrecognition” – Marion Wrenn, Ph. D.

Before Your Very Eyes
written and directed by Edward Elefterion
From May 18, 2010 8:00 PM
Through June 13, 2010 3:00 PM
Flamboyan Theatre, Clemente Solo Velez Center
107 Suffolk St.
New York, NY 10002
Click Here to purchase tickets
Price $15.00 – $50.00**
**Please note that the final performance, June 13th, will be a Benefit Performance and Reception. Wine and snacks will be served, and a Silent Auction will be held. Tickets for this performance are $50, benefiting Rabbit Hole Ensemble’s 5th Anniversary Season.**
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