The Austin Chronicle

Arts Review

Reviewed by Barry Pineo, January 19, 2007, Arts

A Beautiful View

The Off Center, through Feb. 3

Running time: 1 hr, 15 min

We're seekers, we human beings. From time immemorial it seems we've searched, pushing into forests, clambering over mountains, sailing across oceans, and finally launching into the depths of the waters and sailing into and past the skies. We've spent a lot of time reaching out into the world and the heavens, and we've spent a lot of time probing our own bodies, taking ourselves apart to try and understand what makes us run, delving into our own minds to try and understand what makes us such seekers and searchers in the first place. And through it all, we've come to understand a lot about ourselves and about the world and about the mysteries that each contain, but there's one mystery we haven't quite solved, although we've moved all around it to examine it from every possible angle, taken it apart and put it back together again, one thing, one mystery, that still eludes our ever eager grasp, and that mystery is the mystery of love.

Liz and Mitch are seekers. As played by Sarah Boughton and Carra Martinez in this dirigo group world premiere, their eyes constantly dart around, looking here, looking there, almost never looking at each other, although each other seems to be exactly what they're looking for. When they first meet in a camping goods store, they are young, and they are liars. They tell stories about themselves – Mitch says she's in a band, although she really can't play an instrument, and Liz says she's a bartender, although she's really only a hostess. They tell these stories and others like them because they've looked at themselves through the eyes of others and found themselves wanting. So they try and make themselves more than what they are.

Director and designer Lowell Bartholomee stages Daniel MacIvor's play appropriately and well, highlighting Liz and Mitch's personal isolation with a series of spotlights that sometimes serves to bring the two together but most often serves to keep them apart. Sometimes one is in the light and the other is in the dark, doing something that we can't see. Sometimes the spots move around the stage as the characters move and thus become, in a sense, yet another character. And while Boughton as the gregarious Liz and Martinez as the reticent Mitch have moments that are individually effective, the most effective moments always come when the two come together and connect, even though those connections often happen by accident, as when they first hold hands. The story is, in a sense, a series of accidents during which we are allowed to see Liz and Mitch find each other and then, out of fear, lose each other, only to find each other and, through betrayal, lose each other again – before losing each other finally, inexorably. Or perhaps not, for the beautiful view of the title is the view we have of those we love, the view that Shakespeare wrote of when he said that journeys end in lovers meeting. Which is how this journey ends – with something lost but something beautiful found again.

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