Review: ‘The Unseen’ at the Road Theatre
Craig Wright’s “The Unseen” at the Road Theatre is punctuated by ear-splitting clangs and metallic screeches — courtesy of David B. Marling’s superb sound design — that wear on one’s nerves within minutes.
For Valdez and Wallace (Matt Kirkwood and Darin Singleton, both excellent), those sounds have been a continuous torment for years on end. Imprisoned for unspecified reasons by some unnamed, possibly futuristic totalitarian regime, the two are routinely dragged out of their cells for questioning and torture. But there’s no appeasing their mysterious captors, who seem more intent on dehumanization than information.
There are no family portraits or personal artifacts to relieve the bleakness of Desma Murphy’s stark prison set, glaringly lighted by Jeremy Pivnick. Other than nerve-racking visits by their brutish guard (Douglas Dickerman, in a hilarious, harrowing turn), the only stimulus available to the brainy Wallace and the deceptively slow-witted Valdez is conversation, their sole hedge against insanity.
But what a powerful hedge it is. Wright, who also directs, is a prolific playwright as well as a television producer and the creator of “Dirty Sexy Money.” A versatile craftsman, Wright has become known for his intimate exegeses of male/female relationships. “Unseen” may seem a radical departure, but Wallace and Valdez share a bond more intimate than any lovers’. Granted, Wright’s dystopian dialectic sometimes veers into the self-conscious. But the human imperative for connection, however forced or flawed, imparts this harrowing tale of paranoia, fear and mindless oppression with real meaning. We wallow in Valdez and Wallace’s pain but to a purpose.