MINE EYES

nytheatre.com review by Fred Backus
August 15, 2003

There has been much written about homegrown right-wing extremism in this country, but Mine Eyes is not the usual story of a naive and uneducated youth being seduced by hate-mongering. Instead, Albert Lawrence Tekton is quickly revealed to be a savvy entrepreneur whose attempts to exploit the militia movement for his own aggrandizement "blow back" in his face, and this up-ending of a familiar morality tale sets the stage for this intelligent and engrossing one man show written by Michael Bettencourt.

Tekton, a self-taught PR man who sees a cash cow in helping hate groups translate their message to the masses, is paradoxically the very embodiment of the morally bankrupt American consumerism his employers profess to despise in their attempt to return to an upright and pure America that never was. Perhaps what makes this character study so interesting is that Tekton is fully aware of the contradiction. By setting up in stark contrast these two conflicting visions of the American Dream/Nightmare as its intellectual underpinnings, Mine Eyes opens up the field to countless debates about the nature of patriotism, democracy, capitalism, and bigotry in America. But Bettencourt is content to allow these themes to linger as questions. Instead, Mine Eyes then turns to Tekton's attempt at redemption, and the difficulty of atoning for his actions when he knew what he was doing all along.

This is sophisticated stuff, adeptly handled by the author, and he is well supported in this production. David L. Carson is excellent as Tekton, revealing a man paralyzed by an intelligence perhaps too reflective for his own good. Ed Chemaly's simple and appropriate direction allows the text to speak clearly its complex themes. In creating such an interesting and complicated anti-hero, my only regret is that the piece does not go further in taking us along Tekton's journey. When Tekton tells his offstage (and perhaps imagined) interviewer that the details of his induction into extremism are a tale for another time, I was left wishing it were told here. Although captivating, the essence of Tekton remains elusive, and perhaps the details of how he ended up on his less-trodden path would illuminate even more the wealth of ideas and questions Mine Eyes poses. Even so, it is testament to the quality of the piece all around that one is left wanting more rather than less.

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