As historian Bruce Franklin has observed, anyone surprised by the news from Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo hasn’t been paying attention to American prisons, the farm system for torturers like Charles Graner. Miguel Pinero penned “Short Eyes, ” his explosive look inside the penal colony, as part of the short-lived glasnost in prison literature of the 60s and 70s. Thirty years later, as Blindfaith Theatre’s production demonstrates, it still hits hard. The brutally unsentimental story of a cell block’s reaction to its new inhabitant, a child molester, “Short Eyes” depicts the racial and sexual power economies that drive prison life even as it holds out the promise of human freedom in the grimmest of circumstances. Essentially an ensemble piece, “Short Eyes” reserves momentary solo spots for most of its performers; particularly effective in seizing these are Arch Harmon, as the ironically hyperactive Ice, and Juan Francisco Villa as the play’s cool moral center, Juan. But the real strength of the play remains the interchange among the cast. Beneath the casual insults and the sudden outbursts of spirited song, the production maintains throughout a pervasive sense of primal menace, abetted by R&D’s characteristically sharp violence design and William Crowley’s looming set. The final curtain arrives like a welcome, if temporary, stay of execution; the play’s dark lessons don’t lose their grip so easily. (John Beer)
This production is now closed.