Sight Unseen
Reviewed by David Kashimba
Photo by Charles Jarrett

Playhouse West in Walnut Creek presents a powerful drama by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Donald Margulies. This multilevel play delves gracefully into the labyrinthine caverns of man-woman relationships, touching on the comic irony of triangular relationships and dives head first into racial issues.

Sight Unseen is the story of Jonathan Waxman (Sean J. OíNeil), an artist who after many struggling years has finally made fame and fortune from his paintings. But success doesnít necessarily bring resolution. While on a tour, with his paintings in a famous London gallery, Waxman decides to look up his first great love. Patricia (Heather Mathieson) is now married to Nick (Patrick McDonnell) an English anthropologist. Waxman is also married with a child on the way. But the special circumstances of the love he once had with Patricia draw them together. The fact that this was a first love for both of them makes their past relationship special enough, but a forbidden quality also adds to the intensity and the lack of resolution. Waxman is Jewish and blond-haired blue-eyed Patricia is not. While his father adapted well to his sonís relationship, Jonathanís mother never accepts Patricia, and, on a certain level neither does Jonathan. Though he became sexually intimate with her, he never felt comfortable with that intimacy and at one point actually admitted to her that she frightened him and the fear was based on racial difference.

Most playwrights dance lightly around racial issues, but Margulies dives in head first with a brutal honesty that is both refreshing and provides damn good drama. There are other interesting scenes where Waxman is being interviewed by a German journalist (Teresa Wilkes Levine), and the subject keeps moving from his artwork to the fact that he is an artist of Jewish heritage. The movement is subtle, sometimes initiated by the journalist, sometimes by Waxman, sometimes by the subject of his paintings.

Some of the best comedy in this production comes from the uncomfortable encounters between Waxman and Patriciaís English husband. McDonnell captures that dry cutting British wit in a way that sneaks up on you so you suddenly find yourself laughing out loud but never quite sure you should be.

With excellent performances by the entire cast, Sight Unseen can be seen and seen again. For tickets or more information call (925) 942-0300.

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