Los Angeles Times

May 16, 2005

 

THEATER REVIEW

 

Male madness in a supernatural world

 

by Rob Kendt

Special to The Times

 

Magic realism makes an odd fit with the free-floating angst of a male midlife crisis in Sam Shepard's "Eyes for Consuela," based on an Octavio Paz short story, "The Blue Bouquet." In director Stephen Rothman's intermittently stirring new production at Cal State L.A.'s State Playhouse, the two styles—worldviews, really—share the stage almost casually, without producing the illuminating sparks we might hope.

 

Shepard's subject here, as always, is manhood, both its madness and its meaning. In Henry (Cliff De Young) and Amado (Jonathan C.K. Williams), he has a sharp contrast at hand: a drifting American on a downscale tropical vacation from himself, and a Mexican noble savage with inscrutable motives and an apparently direct relationship to the spirit world.

 

What links these two is never quite convincing, either as a metaphor or as a real threat of violence: The machete-bearing Amado, out looking for freshly plucked blue eyes to bring his lover Consuela (Alyta Kivisels), happens on Henry—or does he?—while the latter is in the jungle, rehearsing a one-sided dialogue with his estranged wife.

 

Once the two are together in a hotel room, Shepard is in his element. Tequila flows and the men compare notes on the intertwining mysteries of women, fate and change. It's not major Shepard, but at least it's recognizable Shepard. De Young gives Henry's reluctant confessions a searching, impacted intensity under Williams' unwaveringly virile, challenging gaze.

 

When the play returns to Paz's stark fable of retribution, "Eyes" switches gears with mixed results. Donna Ruzika's lighting, which is too even and bright for the hotel set, is dense and lush for the exterior, while the hypnotic Kivisels and Patrick Gorman, as a perpetually smoking oldster, give us a tantalizing glimpse of a different play altogether. So does the tasty live accompaniment by Randy and Scott Rodarte.

 

But Henry's response to the supernatural is to keep blabbing neurotically in its face. A well-timed pause to register deep unease would go a long way toward making "Eyes for Consuela" a real eye-opener.

 

*

 

'Eyes for Consuela'

 

Where: SegWAY Theater Project, State Playhouse, Cal State L.A., 5151 State University Drive, L.A.

 

When: 8 p.m. Thursdays to Saturdays

 

Ends: May 21

 

Price: $15

 

Contact: (323) 343-4118

 

Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes