By Toby Zinman
For the Inquirer
“This is a true story. It’s a love story — our love story.” That story is Blink by Phil Porter, having its American premiere at Inis Nua Theatre. And that’s the trouble:It’s a short story, “true” or not, not a play.
The two characters speak almost entirely to us. They sit, inexplicably, at desks, inexplicably shoeless, and narrate the chapters of their odd romance. Despite director Tom Reing's attempts to give the actors stuff to do onstage, much of which seems awkward, Blink lacks theatricalization.
Jonah and Sophie are damaged people whose upbringings in reclusive environments made them feel lost and lonely when they move to London. Each radiates shy charm.
Jonah (Adam Altman) was raised by his mother on a Christian commune, a place that rejected the contemporary world. When hate graffiti appeared on the barns, he was the designated night watchman; for five years he kept his eyes to a camera, and keeping watch became his habit. When his mother died of pancreatic cancer, he left.
Sophie (Clare Mahoney) lives in an apartment upstairs from Jonah’s. Her father, to whom she was deeply attached, dies of pancreatic cancer. Some nifty coincidence, right? In her grief, she finds she is disappearing, becoming invisible.
One day she sends Jonah, then a stranger to her, the screen half of a baby’s-room monitor, keeping the surveillance half of the device. He begins to watch her, and she takes comfort and pleasure in being watched, as this slowly restores her to visibility.
Jonah and Sophie tell us overlong stories about the TV soap operas they watch, about his following her through the streets, about cricket matches, and, most significant, about a car crash. Each time a new character crops up in their story, the actors speak into a microphone to alter their voices (I thought actors were supposed to be able to do that without electronics); this has the effect of muffling speech, especially Mahoney’s ,whose voice is thin and soft.
Finally, it will turn out that they prefer the comfort of the little screens, finding that a virtual relationship is easier than a real one. If this is a general comment on contemporary life, it seems weakened by the fact that these two characters are so stunted by events in their pasts, it isn’t at all surprising they are ill at ease in reality.
Inis Nua Theatre Company at Off-Broad Street Theater in the First Baptist Church (1636 Sansom Street). Through Oct.27. Tickets $ 25-30. Information: 215-454-9776 or http://inisnuatheatre.org