Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires

Regional Reviews by Fred Sokol

Private Eyes
Shakespeare & Company

Also see Fred's reviews of Annapurna and Intimate Apparel and Zander's review of Hair

Caroline Calkins and Marcus Kearns
Steven Dietz's play Private Eyes first appeared in 1996 and now, within the confines of the Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre, Shakespeare & Company brings to life this tricky play-within-play comic drama. Highlighting the fall season for the Lenox, Massachusetts-based troupe, a group of eager actors zap the sharp edges of infidelity, veracity, art, life...

Matthew (Luke Reed) and Lisa (Caroline Calkins) are married actors who are rehearsing a play focusing on adultery. Adrian (Marcus Kearns) is a British all-about-me director who, it seems, has been intimately involved with Lisa; at least we think so. Then there's Cory (Elizabeth 'Lily' Cardaropoli) who appears first as a waitress; and then as a private investigator; and finally as Adrian's wife. No wonder Matthew visits Frank (Lori Evans), a therapist. Matthew might or might not be sharing all with Frank. For that matter, it is not a certainty that Frank is a psychologist. Call it all enigmatic, to be sure. Nothing is for certain and Dietz shifts from reality to fantasy, too. Matthew, Lisa, and Adrian form a triangle but calling it love might be just a tad erroneous.

Director Jonathan Croy has demonstrated both as an actor and director for this company that he has facility with the comic genre. Croy moves Private Eyes briskly and creates an up-tempo beat for the current production. Lighting designer Robyn Warfield and sound designer Iain Fisher work together beautifully during a sequence not to be given away here. Patrick Brennan and Devon Drohan devise a set which seems simple but is fully appropriate. Govane Lohbauer's outfits are assets.

This play showcases top level acting by individuals who, for the most part, have been with Shakespeare & Company the past few years or so. Croy and his performers interpret and embody a play about life and art and one which is layered with dark humor. In the beginning, middle, and end, it is all about deception.

On the more serious side, perhaps, the playwright could be probing for a reason. Just what goes on beneath the surface for these characters? In any case, Calkins, Reed, and Kearns, spinning around within "the triangle," are adept and convincing. Cardaropoli shifts from one persona (and wig) to the next with dexterity.

The first hour of Private Eyes sparkles with edgy humor and fully captures the script's intricacies. That continues after intermission as Dietz continues to unveil. This never gets old or tedious. But, the play might have more effectively concluded without the final twist and turn. Leave it at that. Some will find it all mysterious and others confounding.

Caroline Calkins's Lisa is unaware and naive, then all knowing, involved with more than one man—and on what level. The actress brings great spirit to this character: we like her. Similarly, talented Luke Reed as Matthew is ensnared within the mind and body games Dietz creates. The audience, watching the flirting, the acting, the adulterous behavior, is left to figure it all out. For much of the time, this is great fun. In fact, it opens up an arena for further speculation. Private Eyes stimulates everyone to keep up and then anticipate. Dietz, though, is ahead of us and it is nearly impossible to prognosticate all.

Actors always seek truth and Dietz, a prolific playwright, supplies a play which is filled with betrayal and lies. This, for the performers, means they must convince through dishonesty. Better stop here or this might echo and then evolve just as Private Eyes does.

Private Eyes continues through November 9th, 2014, at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts. It is staged in the Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre. For tickets, call (413) 637-3353 or visit

Photo: Elizabeth Aspenlieder

Also see the current theatre schedule for Connecticut & Beyond

- Fred Sokol

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