SMUDGE by Alex Bulmer, directed by Alisa Palmer, with Diane Flacks, Sherry Lee Hunter and Kate Lynch. Presented by Nightwood Theatre at the Tarragon Extra Space (30 Bridgman). Runs to December 10, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $16-$21, Sunday pwyc. 531-1827. Rating: NNNN
The journey from bright light to near darkness shines with theatrical illumination and heartfelt reality in Smudge, Alex Bulmer's script about a woman dealing with the degeneration of her eyesight.Freddie (Diane Flacks) has retinitis pigmentosa, a disease that destroys all but a bit of one's peripheral vision, and she's understandably distraught. At first she handles it comically, but then her emotional trajectory takes an angry, downhill curve, especially when problems pop up with her new lover, Catherine.
Working with designers Carolyn M. Smith, Andrea Lundy, John Gzowski and Deb Sinha, director Alisa Palmer gives the audience a sense of Freddie's increasingly fragmented world, where it's a trauma to walk across a coffee house to get a serviette and a major victory to sit squarely in a chair. In this almost surrealistic setting, characters are indistinct behind a hazy backdrop, while the mirror-ball projections in a dance palace morph into the flecks of "foggy jello" that Freddie perceives.
But it's Flacks -- working with Kate Lynch and Sherry Lee Hunter in a variety of roles, including a misty embodiment of the disease itself -- who puts the final stamp on the production. Drawing on her comic skills and later giving the playwright's poetic monologues their proper weight, Flacks has rarely done finer work.