“Eyes Shut. Door Open”: Exploring the Artist’s Tormented Psyche

Photo credit: Wax Wings Productions (we'll happily updated the credit if given the name of the photographer)

Photo credit: Nile Hawver/Nile Scott Shots

Presented by Wax Wings Productions
Written by Cassie M. Seinuk
Directed by Christopher Randolph

Thursday 8/13 @ 7:30pm, Friday 8/14 & Saturday 8/15 @ 7:30pm, 10pm
The Inner Sanctum Gallery, Roxbury
Wax Wings Productions on Facebook

Review by Travis Manni

(Roxbury, MA) They say you should never judge a book by its cover, and I’m ashamed to admit I judged a play by its title. But it’s hard when the name is Eyes Shut. Door Open, which has a seemingly pretentious period in the middle, but no ending punctuation—an English major’s worst nightmare. But I had to let go of this trivialness to be swept up in playwright Cassie M. Seinuk’s world, which had its own set of nightmares prepared for me.

Eyes Shut. Door Open begins at artist Turner’s gallery opening in New York City. Victor Shopov plays the role of the 30-year-old with both charisma and the handsome menace you’d expect from a successful bachelor living in the city—you just know he’s hiding something.

He begins flirtatious conversation with caterer Johanna, who is just as fascinating as Turner, likely more so simply because she exudes utter confidence. Melissa DeJesus gives the role such life and allure that it doesn’t feel like a performance, it’s an honest display of what a strong woman looks like under pressure.

Back at Turner’s apartment, just as things begin to get hot and heavy, estranged 20-year-old addict Palmer, Tuner’s brother, bursts in, fresh off the bus from out of town. Turner is upset, but Johanna is pleased, more than happy to stir the pot. She thinks Turner is hiding from memories of his past, and the eye patch covering Palmer’s left eye is indication she’s right. Michael Underhill plays the part of the desperate-to-please, pill-popping brother with a childish passion, oblivious to consequences and aptly reflective of his character’s immaturity, also trapped in the memories of his own past.

As the plot progresses, it’s clear the Johanna’s presence is more than just a coincidence. She is a woman who knows what she wants and how to get it. She wants to see Turner’s in-progress paintings, which he keeps looked up behind his studio door. He is afraid of the (literal) demon that lingers there, a tension that elevates the play to a level of unexpected horror-intrigue that keeps the audience curious and attentive and creates a riveting climax.

This is a team effort from sound designer Patrick Greene, whose demonically distorted voice-overs kept me cringing throughout the show as well as lighting designer Christopher Bocchiaro, whose noir-inspired style for Turner’s scenes of psychological hellscape transport the audience into the mind of the tormented artist.

Director Christopher Randolph is able to piece together a wonderfully fluid story that captures the ever-raging question of what drives an artist to make art without letting the audience fall behind during the scenes of hellish whimsy. Eyes Shut. Door Open is a stunning display of human torment and passion that audiences are sure to appreciate—just be prepared to watch some scenes through your fingers with wincing eyes.

For tickets, click here. Eyes Shut. Door Open runs for 90 minutes with no intermission and is hosted at the Inner Sanctum in Dudley Square.

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