by Mike “Buzz” Buzzelli, ‘Burgh Vivant.
In some undefined, otherworldly labyrinth, two women converge; the rich, rigid Olexzandra (Elizabeth Ruelas) and the peculiar and masculine Jill (Lisa Ann Goldsmith) in Andrea Lepcio’s “Tunnel Vision.” They are deposited in a cavernous room strewn with junk.
Olexzandra begins to build something with a scrap heap of metal, yarn, bits and bobs while Jill scratches at her skin. As luck would have it, Olexzandra happens to be a dermatologist and Jill happens to have dermatitis. The two form an uneasy alliance as they attempt to ascertain their whereabouts. The quickly discover that all roads of the labyrinth lead back to the junkyard they now occupy.
They don’t know how it is they came to be where they are. Olexzandra wants to retrace her steps, but then realizes the events leading up to her arrival in the junkyard are too intimate and frightening to recount. Jill is also reluctant to tell her story.
“Tunnel Vision” has a lot of half-spoken conversations. Some of those conversations are directed at the audience. There is an uneasy conceit of the play in which the audience is an active but mute participant in the drama. The characters are aware they are being watched and indirectly try to engage us. It’s a difficult trick to pull off. At one point, Jill poses a question to the audience and they are supposed to respond in a certain way. One couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if someone responded differently.
There is a poetry to the language of the play, but, like poetry, it’s sometimes difficult to understand. Like poetry, some of the questions of the story remain unanswered. Though there are a few witty moments, there are also long pauses of silence that are intentionally unbearable. One silent moment worked well. When Olexzandra soothes Jill with her ointment. It is a gentle, loving moment with hints of eroticism. However, when Olexzandra uses surgical tape to repair Jill’s ripped jeans, the moment plays out at an uncomfortably slow pace.
It’s a premiere work and it still has some kinks that need to be worked out. However, Goldsmith and Ruelas are engaging. Jill has some rough edges and could have made the character unlikable, but Goldsmith finds depth in the lost girl. Olexzandra is also a difficult character (her name is Olexzandra, for Heaven’s sake!), but Ruelas finds a sweet vulnerability in the dermatologist.
Director Melissa Maxwell does a fine job peeling back the onion-like layers of “Tunnel Vision.” Though, Maxwell spends a bit too much time in the aforementioned spaces between the words.
It’s hard to describe what “Tunnel Vision” is. It’s easier to describe what it isn’t. It’s not a ghost story, though there is a ghost story in it. It’s not really a romance, though there are romantic moments. It’s not a horror, even though it places its characters in a horrifying situation (trapped in a labyrinth with no exit). It’s a dichotomous tale wherein the whole is bigger than the sum of its parts. Much like the junkyard setting, there are bits and pieces scattered about, partial ideas, unused concepts, and conversations that linger in the corner.
“Tunnel Vision” takes us on a circuitous route through and around the two characters, but there is hope, a gleaming beacon of hope. Two damaged creatures escape their wretched unfulfilled lives by finding salvation in the other; the light at the end of the tunnel.
“Tunnel Vision” is at the Carnegie Stage, 25 W. Main Street, Carnegie, PA 15106. For more information, click here.