|Photo by Petronella Ytsma|
All the pieces are there for Park Square's latest production, Behind the Eye, to be a success: a talented local playwright, an excellent director, a strong cast, a nicely realized design. As happens from time to time, however, the sum is far less than the parts in this sleepy biographical play about an intriguing historical figure.
Lee Miller was a model for Vogue, a photographer who ran in circles with some of the great modern artists of the first part of the 20th century, and a war correspondent whose intense imagery brought the fight home for viewers.
We learn this throughout Carson Kreitzer's script. Well, to be more accurate, we are mainly told this during the 100 minutes of the play. The show is far too talky, especially when describing the work of such a vibrant visual artist.
The play swirls through Miller's life, following events mainly chronologically. We see her early days in Paris, and then, after the editor of Vogue saved her from being hit by a car, her arrival as a model. The beauty made the scene in the 1920s, but her interest in art went much further than being in front of the lens.
She spends time with artists like Picasso and Cocteau, all the while deepening her own interest in photography and writing. There are husbands and affairs, and an eventual deeper purpose after the start of World War II. Miller is fearless in the face of conflict, following soldiers to the front and eventually to the horrors of Dachau.
It's a fascinating story that never launches. Annie Enneking works hard to bring the proceedings to life, and she is aided by a talented quartet of performers.
The staging itself could use more fire as well. While there are touches of the surreal (a kitchen counter drops sand like rain while Miller thinks back to her time in the desert), the show mainly lives in the verbal instead of the visual.
Kreitzer's script just doesn't have the razor-sharp insight the playwright has brought to earlier pieces. After a while, all the hard work onstage just becomes exhausting instead of exhilarating.
IF YOU GO:
Behind the Eye
Through May 18
Park Square Theatre
$38 and $58
20 W. 7th Pl., St. Paul, MN