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Review: ‘Tunnel Vision’ at Venus Theatre

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Tunnel Vision, written by Andrea Lepcio and directed by Deborah Randall, at Venus Theatre is a powerful and a thought-provoking play. Venus Theatre, under the direction of Founder Deborah Randall, has developed into an venue for plays that deal with women’s and children’s issues, and has become a voice for their causes.

Tunnel Vision is in the genre of Theatre of the Absurd. The sparse set filled with piles of junk and one overturned rowboat is in the style of Samuel Beckett. The whole play has the feel of Beckett as the dialogue sometimes does not blend well while the characters start out working in parallel rather than together, until the story progresses.

KyoSin Kang and Katie Hileman. Photo by Mike Landsman. 

The plot is hard to describe, like the plot of Waiting for Godot. Two women find themselves lost in a place at the end of a tunnel and they cannot get out. All paths lead right back to where they are. They are quite different people. Olezander (Kyosin Kang) is an uptight dermatologist. She has a family and is now pregnant. She has a need to organize and immediately begins doing just that to the clutter lying around the set. She hangs a plastic flamingo from a broken swivel chair bottom hanging on the wall. She arranges “flowers.”

Jill (Katie Hileman) is alone and has recently lost her job and home. We know a lot about her feelings. Jill is less uptight than her counterpart. She talks about her fascination with a picture of a woman she saw in a tunnel. She is also in obvious physical distress and moans, cries, twitches, and has spasms. As the play goes on the two women start to connect. We find out more about their lives before they arrived in the tunnel, and their souls. Their relationship changes and that is what is so satisfying, for me, about this fascinating play.

Katie Hileman (Jill). Photo by Mike Landsman 

This is really a tale of “acceptance and redemption, played out in a non-traditional theatre space from which truth, purpose, and love unexpectedly emerge.”

Randall’s conception helps keep our attention. The physical action is choreographed like a dance and, in some sense, watching it is like watching modern dance versus classical ballet. The movements and physical connections are more important than the plot. The movements here often tell us more about the characters than their words.

When a play has only two actors, they need, figuratively, big shoulders to carry the audience on their journey. Both Hileman and Kang do an excellent job in keeping us focused on their interaction. Hileman conveys vividly her agony, both physical and emotional. She expresses her loneliness in a profound way, and despite her bizarre behavior at the early part of the play, we are drawn to Jill.

Kang’s Olexander changes from an uptight, overachieving doctor and mother to a warm and loving person. Her finest scene is when she finally explains her relationship with her sister, nd exposes her vulnerability.

Amy Rhodes did a remarkable job as set designer, helping the actors make something out of nothing. I still am not sure how her tree grows, but it was an interesting effect. Paul Kelm is credited with special rigging effects.

Kristin Thompson’s lighting also conveyed this strange unending maze and helped set the mood for some of the emotionally darker scenes.

Neil McFadden’s sound creates an eeriness to this place and all the timing went without any hitches. The sound, therefore, never overshadowed the events on stage and just helped build on the themes of the play.

KyoSin Kang and Katie Hileman. Photo by Mike Landsman.

Theater of the Absurd is very subjective. Therefore, I may get something out of the play, and you may not see the same thing if you come to Venus Theatre. Tunnel Vision really means losing the ability to see peripherally. As the story unfolded, the two women’s vision changed and so did mine. I really appreciated this play. It made me feel and it made me think, which I believe was Randall’s objective in choosing to produce and direct it. It may even let you find yourself.

Tunnel Vision runs for the next three weekends If you go to see it, it will prove to be an eye-opening experience.

Tunnel Vision plays through June 4, 2017, at Venus Theatre Company – 21 C Street, in Laurel, MD. For tickets, purchase them online.

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Deborah Randall, Founder of Venus Theatre, on Love Notes to a Friend:

Tricia Lynn McCauley (1970-2016) was an herbalist, actress, yoga teacher, potion maker, astrologer, and lover of life. In the 1990s, she co-founded The Theatre Conspiracy, one of D.C.’s first feminist theater companies. She later developed her own line of all-natural body care, Leafyhead Lotions & Potions, and District Devil, skin and beard-care for men. Tricia embodied the wisdom, beauty, and mystery of the Goddess. She leaves behind a legacy of plants, connection and love, Love, LOVE!

Tricia McCauley. Photo courtesy of Venus Theatre.

Venus embarks on our 17th year of women empowering plays (#59, 60, 61, and 62!) and we welcome and thank you for fair and well balanced coverage.

During my standard process of reading play submissions, a very dear friend was raped and killed over the Christmas holiday. Her name was Tricia McCauley and I loved her very much. Over the past 20 years she was always right there cheering on my next bold idea. I can’t tell you how strange it will be to not have her holding a seat in the house this year, or in any year ahead. It’s devastating.

So, we are dedicating the whole year to her.

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