Aggressive, immersive and psychologically scathing, Miguel Piñero's raw, poignant play is not to be missed. This poetic portrait of circumstance makes no apologies as it pushes the audience into their seats, pulls them inside the walls of a prison and forces them to face issues not easily, nor often, approached. The term Short Eyes itself is slang for pornography and pedophilia. So based on the name alone it is to be expected that the content be abrasive, and it delivers.
Miguel Piñero wrote Short Eyes while incarcerated at Sing Sing prison. This play is as authentic of an experience anybody can get. A long-time drug addict, the playwright died of cirrhosis of the liver at age 41 in 1988. Ten years have now passed since a production of Short Eyes has been mounted in Los Angeles. That time lapse is incredible considering the play was produced on Broadway and nominated for six Tony Awards. The dialog alone makes the production worth watching. The fact that this piece of literary gold is so rarely produced makes it a theatrical opportunity unlike any other. Piñero's voice is one that is not heard enough. While some might find it offensive or off-putting, there is no denying the thoughtful introspection this piece provokes. The character driven play assaults subjects as socially relevant today as when it was originally produced in 1974. Through lyrical dialog, Short Eyes confronts controversial issues of race, sexual perversion and criminal justice with courageous grit that can only come from the streets.
The prison system is designed to smother an inmate's desire to commit crimes. That attempt to strangle crime out of criminals puts pressure on prisoners to fight for their individuality. This results in an intensely colorful cast of characters who all have something to prove. The range of over-the-top yet true-to-life personalities is what really makes this play enjoyable and rescues it from being just a violently heavy drama. Carl Crudup as Ice throws so much focused energy at the role (and at the audience) that it is impossible not to appreciate his stand out performance. David Santana played Juan with strength, subtly externalizing his internal struggle. Santana became an anchor among a group of his loud, erratic peers. Matias Ponce provided heart with his convincing portrayal of the naive and conflicted Cupcakes. Rounding out the cast was Mark Rolston. Known for his film roles in The Departed, Aliens and The Shawshank Redemption, Rolston gave life to the vehement bastard, Longshoe. It has been said that you are only as strong as your weakest link, and this show was as strong as one can be.
Urban Theatre Movement (who produced the show with LATC) proves they are a company worth your attention. This risky, dangerous type of production is exactly what theater needs.
Short Eyes runs Thursdays through Sundays through March 10th.
For tickets and info visit http://urbantheatremovement.com/