This past weekend, the ’92 Theater paid host to an original student piece, “Eyes of a Blue Dog,” written and directed by Grace Herman-Holland ’15 and based on three short stories by Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The production, which interwove the three stories into a single conceptual narrative, explored the relationship between a nameless male and female (Mark Popinchalk ’13 and Isabel Rouse ’14, respectively), whose only interactions took place within a spare dreamscape. While the piece occasionally dipped into the waking lives of its subjects, the main action found itself tethered to that more abstract nocturnal terrain, a decision which worked both for and against the play in different sections.
“Eyes of a Blue Dog” was very much a study in minimalism on all fronts. The dialogue between characters functioned with intentional emotional deficit, while the set consisted of merely a table in the center of the stage with a window hung above it. Occasionally, performers would bring on other props, such as water basins and additional chairs; however, for the most part decoration relied entirely on the fundamentals. As a result, the audience, seated in bleachers on four sides of the square stage, became very dependent on the actors to lend meaning to the performance, which at times meandered between various levels of abstruseness with varying levels of success.
In many ways, this benefited the piece, with the two leads each turning in a resonant and intriguing performance. Rouse adeptly wielded equal parts resilience and despair in the face of being forgotten, while Popinchalk provided his character’s aloof remove with a searing human edge. The chemistry between the pair was tangible, and even in the few moments when it seemed somewhat dulled it gave the more recondite aspects of the writing much-needed emotional handleholds for the audience.
If the play suffered from anything, it was that Holland, whose script crackled with intelligence and investment in the stories which she adapted, bit off slightly more than she could chew given the play’s fifty-minute running time. There were moments when ideas seemed incomplete or relationships unfulfilling within the context of the whole story; however, these were mostly washed away by the verve of the performers. Even if “Eyes” at times seemed slightly more interested in its message than its audience might be, that self-interest brought with it an awareness of its strengths that decisively magnified them.
It takes a great deal of courage to present one’s own work, especially to such a large audience. If nothing else, “Eyes of a Blue Dog” was a passionate reminder of Wesleyan students’ investments in their interests and their desires to share and transform them in the presence of their compatriots. Beyond that, however, “Eyes” proved to be a stirring meditation on the roles we play in one another’s lives, as well as the difficulty of coming to terms with others’ realities and how they differ from our own, sometimes overly generous, perceptions. In many ways, this is one of the more important skills that college can teach us—one which reveals itself to be nothing less than a magnificent form of social alchemy, wherein our loneliness and disappointment are transmuted before our eyes into transcendent connection, in all its myriad forms.