Written by Daniella Litvak
“Anything goes but don’t blink, you might miss”
Load Bearing Studios is a full service photo and video production rental studio located in an industrial complex in the heart of Santa Ana. In other words, it is not a traditional venue for a stage show. However, the venue’s atypical features are precisely why it’s the right place for the Unnamed Theatre Company to stage their production of Phil Porter’s Blink.
Blink is a love story – a very contemporary love story. The website for the show also accurately describes it as “A dysfunctional, voyeuristic and darkly funny love story, but a love story all the same.” Sophie (Stacey Manos) and Jonah (Greg Starling) are lonely people living solitary lives until a series of events lead to Jonah renting Sophie’s downstairs flat. Feeling invisible to the world, Sophie sends Jonah a tablet so he can watch her live stream her daily life. Jonah is instantly drawn to her, and Sophie can’t break the connection between them.
Structurally, Blink is a two-person play with Manos and Starling performing the parts of the minor characters in addition to the leading roles of Sophie and Jonah. For much of the runtime, which is approximately 90 minutes without intermission by the way, Sophie and Jonah are apart from each other and narrating to the audience. This is a familiar format that can (and has) be used to tell a variety of stories, and it suits Blink well.
What sets Blink apart is the use of cross-media. Thanks to the premise, the show utilizes film techniques alongside live theater. The most exciting scene of the play is a chase sequence cutting back and forth between these two types of mediums. In the Q & A afterwards, Director Leanna Rose Newell mentioned the medium crossover as a big draw for her. Seeing the result, the appeal is understandable. Hopefully, she will continue to experiment with combining stage and film techniques in future productions.
As mentioned before, Blink can be described as a dark comedy. Despite tackling numerous serious subjects – depression, illness, suicide, etc. – the play never feels too dark. Credit for this comes from the synthesis of the acting, directing, and production design.
Manos is good at conveying Sophie’s vulnerability and weariness. There’s a sincerity she imbues Sophie with that keeps the character sympathetic. In the wrong hands Jonah could have come across as a watered down Norman Bates, but Starling makes him endearing. He keeps Jonah innocent – even when the character swears. The play’s structure keeps the actors apart a lot of the time, but the show is at its most entertaining when the actors can play off each other, not just as Sophie and Jonah but any combination of characters.
The sparseness and neutral color palate of the set design is a feature not a bug. There are two couches set far enough apart to suggest two different flats, some tables and chairs, and a couple of clothes racks. The slight rearrangements and some additional props do enough to alert you when the action has moved to an office or coffee shop. As a bonus, the set design easily integrates the digital backdrop. A busier set design would have made the play overwhelming. Going minimal helps to put the audience in a more meditative state of mind.
It’s appropriate considering the amount of material the play gives the audience to contemplate. Does technology bring people together or keep them apart? Can people truly heal after a traumatic experience? How do we live with grief? For a play about the ephemeral nature of life and love, Blink lingers in your mind.
Good Show! OCR Recommended
 “Somebody Told Me” by The Killers