Sunday, February 14, 2016

Review: BLINK

Review: BLINK



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

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About this blog

Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of five books about modern and contemporary drama, and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). She was recently named by American Theatre magazine "one of the twelve most influential critics in America."

Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.

Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.

Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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