BLINK (Inis Nua): The Manufacturing of Affection

Phil Porter’s BLINK—making its American premiere with Inis Nua Theatre—is a touching pastiche of romance, high drama and farce. It’s both heavy and light, comic and tragic, whimsical and earthbound—yet there’s something more to it. BLINK seems to believe in the awesome power of love but remains skeptical about its origins and its application. There are many ways to fall in love; is it possible there’s a wrong way?

blink inis nua“Love is whatever you feel it to be,” says Jonah (Adam Altman), one of our wide-eyed narrators. But we soon wonder if he really feels this way, or if he’s wishfully trying to believe his own rhetoric. For what Jonah insists is a love story, BLINK shows us remarkably little interaction between he and his purported love, Sophie (Clare Mahoney). Rather, this is a “how we met” tale where our narrators relate the events leading up to the meeting in dueling monologues. We get to hear the part of the story that, in a Hollywood film made of the same material, would be glossed over in a few minutes of montage.

This is risky because it requires more telling than showing on the part of the actors. But Porter’s flights of narrative fancy save the story from growing stale before our lovers finally meet. Jonah tells of his childhood on what sounds like a cult farm, while Sophie shares her experiences coming of age on the more white collar Isle of Man. Both characters lose someone close to them. Jonah copes with the death of his mother by using his inheritance to loaf around and eat bacon sandwiches. Sophie deals with her dad’s death by playing Red Dead Redemption for Xbox

Somehow, Jonah comes to rent the flat beneath Sophie’s, and when Sophie spots him outside one morning he reminds her of her dad. But rather than introduce herself, Sophie sends a wi-fi camera screen to Jonah, so he can watch her as she goes about her day. Jonah’s watching and Sophie’s knowledge of being watched allows the two to forge a comfortable (if twisted) relationship. They read together, eat together, watch television together, but are never actually together. It’s the world’s most advanced relationship.

Adam Altman and Clare Mahoney in Inis Nua's BLINK.
Adam Altman and Clare Mahoney in Inis Nua’s BLINK.

Jonah pursues the object of his voyeurism, and when they finally meet for real (under complicated circumstances) his heart is full and he means to devote himself to Sophie. Jonah’s chivalric buffoon act is charming, but their meeting in real life seems to violate the comfort of their wi-fi courtship. If they are to be together in the concrete sense, they must actually begin to know each other. And knowing and being known are not so easy, even under the most agreeable of conditions.

Porter’s genius is in his delicate touch. He goes the full Dylan Thomas with his poetic monologues and the language adds an air of mythic beauty that carries us through the very real suffering, redemption and eventual resignation of our protagonists. The brazen sentimentality of the script begs for boldness in performance, otherwise the maudlin bits would be eye-rollingly soppy. Luckily, director Tom Reing embraces both the fantastical and the kitchen-sink elements of BLINK, and the balancing act pays off. His actors, Altman and Mahoney, are almost compulsively likable. First-time sound designer Jared Michael Delaney heightens the action with just the right dosage of ethereal synths. The set design by Meghan Jones marries beauty and industry to striking effect.

Our wi-fi world allows humans control over how they appear to others, thereby manipulating our perceptions of people who are more complex than their online presences might suggest. BLINK is about falling in love with those illusions and the fallout that happens when the veil is thrown back. We aren’t always who we say we are, but sometimes it’s nice to pretend. October 9-27, 2013,

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