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My Eyes Went Dark

Theatre Review by Howard Miller - June 14, 2017

Declan Conlon and Thusitha Jayasundera
Photo by Carol Rosegg

"There are no accidents." This is something we may tell ourselves or each another when faced with a devastating event for which no other explanation will suffice. How can something as stupid as a mistake, a misstep, or an error in judgment possibly explain away the kind of loss experienced by architect Nikolai Koslov in Matthew Wilkinson's wrenching play My Eyes Went Dark, opening tonight as part of the Brits Off Broadway Festival at 59E59 Theaters?

Koslov, played with a laser-like intensity by Declan Conlon, is desperate for answers after he has been driven to the edge of madness when a mid-air collision between two airplanes results in the deaths of 148 passengers, including his wife and two children. There has to be someone to blame, to take responsibility, to apologize even. But no apology is forthcoming, no punishment. An inquiry finds that an overworked air traffic controller made a mistake. Some executives are given a slap on the wrist. Compensation packages are being ironed out by the lawyers. The controller is back at work. And Koslov, like all of the affected families, is left to cope with his loss.

But quietly coping is not in Koslov's genetic makeup. Pressing beyond his grief is a lust for justice. And if the courts and the public officials will not provide it, he will take it upon himself.

Performed in a small, intimate space with only a pair of chairs onstage, the play's potency is not borne solely by the Lear-like power of Declan Conlon's performance. He is equaled by co-star Thusitha Jayasundera, an accomplished actress who portrays multiple other characters who cross Koslov's path, including a psychiatrist, an airline spokesperson, a photographer, Koslov's wife, and others. These supporting roles may be "small" in comparison to the central figure, but each takes on great significance, owing to Ms. Jayasundera's ability to bring them fully to life by instantaneously changing her demeanor, accent, and vocal expression to meet the needs of the moment.

These two finely wrought performances are honed to a sharp edge by the playwright, who also directs, and by Elliot Griggs's lighting design and Max Pappenheim's outstanding sound design. The story of trauma and revenge, running a scant 75 minutes, makes for a most unsettling evening that raises at least as many questions as it addresses.

My Eyes Went Dark
Through July 2
59E59 Theaters, Theater B, 59 East 59th Street between Madison and Park Avenues
Tickets online and current Performance Schedule: TicketCentral

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