One Eye Closed
At the Wilbur
Putting a comedy on stage is a serious business. It costs a good deal of money, and unless the script or the actors are awfully funny nobody will go because there generally aren't even pretty girls to gape at. So someone along the line must have imagined that Justin Sturm was a funny fellow when he wrote One Eye Closed. I cannot imagine why.
Although the program claims that the play is "A New Comedy," there is only one amusing line all evening. That is delivered by a horse who, for some reason, wanders on stage. Coming at the end of a particularly vapid line by the leading man, Tom Helmore, it serves as a short, and probably unrehearsed, comment on proceedings. It was probably unrehearsed because the horse's timing was slightly off for best comic effect; but then he (or, perhaps, she) is not being paid Equity rates for a speaking part, and you can't get top talent for horsefeed.
Whether or not director Romney Brent can sharpen up the horse's technique for future performances, One Eye Closed is really miserable comedy. Of course, it may be a cleverly concealed allegory and not a comedy at all. In that case, it is also miserable allegory. The actors are completely lost in the script, and can make no more of it than can the audience. But it really isn't their fault. Mr. Sturm thought it would be killing to have a bunch of men pretend they are drunk, another man pretend he is a dangerous criminal, and a woman pretend that she cares what the whole bunch is doing. Unfortunately, someone forgot to add funny lines to the script and was misled into believing that a ridiculous plot is the same as an amusing one. The result is unbearable.
Mr. Helmore, as a starving writer, Constance Ford as his wife, and John Baragrey who plays the criminal, all seem to have talent. But it is preferable for a comedian to play with his role, finding its true comic values. These poor people must wrestle with theirs just to achieve coherence. It seems that the horse, besides having the only laugh of the evening, may have the last one since he, at least, is master of his art.