by Matt Ritchey
Kira Rockwell’s With My Eyes Shut is a wonderful analogy between theatre and the autism spectrum.
Naomi and Cole spend several days wearing costumes and practicing facial expressions to convey emotions, all the work leading toward a performance – they are tested and prodded, but really just want to go back to the comfort of being themselves. Naomi, for example, sees emotions and music as color and just wants to dance – Cole wants to spend his days with the xylophone – why isn’t this enough?
A very simple staging idea by Tara Donovan packs real punch once the curtain lifts and Naomi and Cole begin to see that practicing wearing clown noses and smiling or frowning at the right time is really just preparation for them to perform for the rest of the world their entire lives to make other people happier or more comfortable. It’s a painful, sad discovery… but during this time, they’ve discovered each other. And with someone who understands you, even the hardest tasks can seem easier.
Great performances from Esther Mira, Craig Shields, and a very funny Olivia Schlueter-Corey, with a truly impressive and subtle lighting design by Gregory Crafts, make With My Eyes Shut a moving and powerful show.