See no evil

Private Eyes

<i>Private Eyes</i> is serious—seriously twisted, dark and funny.

Private Eyes is serious—seriously twisted, dark and funny.

PHOTO courtesy of Big Idea theatre

Private Eyes, 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Saturday; $10-$16. Big Idea Theatre, 1616 Del Paso Boulevard; (916) 960-3036; Through May 25.

Big Idea Theatre

1616 Del Paso Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95815

(916) 390-9485

Rated 4.0

Nothing comes easy—especially trust—in Steven Dietz’s play Private Eyes, currently in production at Big Idea Theatre. It might have something to do with the way that the story—about an adulterous actor, her director paramour and her unhappily cuckolded co-starring husband—keeps peeling off to give us another take on the story.

In short, it’s the very definition of a layered narrative, and it adds to its Inception-like quality with a dose of The Matrix: Is any of it real, or is it just a play? But don’t let that make you think this is a waltz into the theater of the absurd. Instead, Private Eyes is an intriguing and uncomfortable—if frequently funny—way to look at how we lie to the ones we love as quickly as we lie to the people we hate. Trust is thus a bit of foolishness in which we indulge ourselves. Or is it the only way to keep a grip on sanity when surrounded by deception?

Lisa (Kristine David) and Matthew (Dan Featherston) are the troubled couple; they are actors playing adulterers in the play within a play. Meanwhile, Lisa began an affair with the director, Adrian (Bert Anderson), at the same time the troupe started rehearsals. Matthew knows, but doesn’t want to know—it’s a sentiment with which we can empathize, as he truly loves his wife—and Lisa is drawn to the forbidden while still hoping she won’t hurt her husband.

In short, it’s the same sort of mundane heartbreak that happens every day, except that the structure of Dietz’s play keeps turning corners and throwing out new possibilities, as well as a few surprises. There are times that the play feels a little too slick for its own good, but those moments are transient, thanks in no small part to the entirely honest emotional abilities of the three leads. The chemistry between the members of this trio is apparent. Under Jouni Kirjola’s direction, their exchanges are sharply paced and emotionally charged. Nina Collins (adding some extremely funny bits) and Gregory Smith provide able support.

Don’t assume that the serious subject matter—deception, trust, love and heartbreak—means Private Eyes is serious. Instead, it’s chocked to the top with a twisted, dark and honest humor, which is perhaps the only way we can face our own failures with each other.