In Steven Dietz's Private Eyes
, the stage turns on itself. Every time we feel we are witnessing the real story, a director steps in from the sidelines with his comments, rendering the scene a rehearsal and placing himself at the center of the new, "real" story. Set mainly in rehearsal studios and a therapist's office, the play centers around the infidelity of Lisa and the ensuing quagmire of emotions her affair inspires in herself, her husband, and her lover. With seamless acting and dialogue charged with intent, we are incessantly drawn in and made to believe, if only for a moment, that we are witnessing reality. Ultimately, we realize we are not going to see reality -- the skin of the onion will continue to peel off forever.
Though Dietz challenges us with abstract questions, he has also created characters whose suffering is intoxicating. Compassion and humor (the husband's manic therapy session) as well as a dash of fantasy (the aloof waitress who turns into a sexy private dick capable of murder) make for stimulating characters. The talented cast re-absorbs the audience time and again with its provocative interactions and humane depictions of both the paralytic moments inspired by suspicion and guilt and the masterful viciousness that deceit arouses. Although the Phoenix Theater's intimacy is a luxury for the audience and serves this piece well, one can't help but feel this talented group does not belong in any basement venue.