Lumps of coal
Her Eyes, Like Diamonds
By Lannie Hill
Directed by John Thornberry
The Oberon Theatre Ensemble
The Producers' Club
358 West 44th Street (560-2241)
Non-equity production (closes Apr. 24)
Review by Sourabh Chatt
Her Eyes, Like Diamonds purports to be a controversial love story that takes one on a journey through small-town southern foibles and human anguish. Sadly, for the audience at hand, the ride was long and painful.
Will and Sandy, in order to escape the misery and monotony of their everyday life, embark on a road trip to experience the freedoms of a world far removed from the restrictions of their small-town surroundings. Sandy, trapped in a life of caring for an invalid and sometimes cruel mother, and Will, "alone" and relegated to being a farmer for the rest of his life, seem the perfect fit. Unfortunately, the difference in their ages would cause a small furor anywhere, especially in this small Mississippi town. They head toward Pensacola, discovering themselves throughout the journey, and inevitably find love while wandering the brilliant sandy beaches. But all good things must come to an end. Will and Sandy must return home, only to face the repercussions of traditions far too ancient - and friends and family far more vicious.
Although Mr. Hill attempts to address a volatile issue constantly affecting the American psyche, the simplicity of his story leaves nothing for the imagination. Rather, it is an underplotted, confusing mess, full of excessive history and information, where the outcome is obvious within a quarter of the play. The play's problems are further compounded by Mr. Hill's giving characters long, dull speeches and were enhanced by actors who lacked the ability to deliver them.
John Thornberry's direction contributed to the ineffectiveness of the play. The opening dance number was far too long, setting up all the drawn-out spaces throughout the play, making it evident that there was no directorial point of view. The most distracting thing by far was Mr. Thornberry's inclusion of "extras" within several of the scenes, miming and whispering in the background while the main characters spoke, totally inadequate for a space this size.
Ben Roberts's Will Hovis displayed some sporadic brilliance, but too infrequent for a main character. His monologue at the end of the play, alone and shunned by the town's people, was quite poignant, but far too late. Lisa Melita French's portrayal of Sandy Mize had no compelling arc, delivering her lines as if she was singing to the audience. When Sandy yawned, so did the audience. Finally, Alta Morice's screeching melodrama as Sandy's mother, Odell, was just that. Her frequent convulsions while tied to her wheelchair were never believable, and were just plain funny. (Also featuring Linda Hetrick, Brandon Beach, Sam Hurlbut, Andrew Lincoln, Kate Ross, Elliott George Robinson, Laura Siner, Paul Vinger, Stefen Lee and Mimi Ferraro.)
The best attributes of this production were Mr. Thornberry's scenic and sound design and Anne F. Carlton's lighting design. Mr. Thornberry did a superb job in designing the set, given the limitations in space, and his choice in music perfectly complemented Ms. Carlton's crisp lighting.