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One Thousand Blinks

nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
January 15, 2012

One Thousand Blinks, a new play by Nick Starr now playing at 59e59, annoyed me greatly. It's about a man named Morgan who takes a job in an unnamed (vaguely Asian?) country as an English professor. But apparently all of his students were injured in some sort of mysterious freak accident, and so the class is being postponed. In the meantime, he's been assigned to translate a medical textbook from this unnamed country's language (a language that has no alphabet!) into English. How long does he think this will take, he is asked by his formidable superior, Dr. Luk, a handsome, inscrutable, preternaturally composed woman. Two weeks, he asks tentatively. How about three days, she counters.

Morgan asks for a computer or even a typewriter, but he must do all his work with pencil and paper. He is locked in a tiny windowless room. He doesn't seem to be given any food. He has only his cellphone to communicate with the outside world. He winds up working endlessly on this project, getting about four hours' sleep over the first three day period.

Why is he doing a job that makes no sense (i.e., translating an apparently important book—at least Dr. Luk keeps telling him it's important—from a language he doesn't know, about a subject he doesn't understand, without any of the modern technological tools that might enable him to increase his effectiveness and efficiency) under near-prison conditions? Why nevertheless does his boss/captor allow him a cellphone?

Meanwhile, his girlfriend Jenny, back in the United States, is having nightmares again; and then her ex-boyfriend Bram—who is some kind of rich genius scientist who, it turns out, works with Dr. Luk—shows up hoping to spend the night not with Jenny but rather with "PJ," the personality that Jenny sometimes takes on while she's asleep. "PJ" is violent and Bram is apparently a masochist.

As the play unfolds, stuff happens that seems weirder and weirder, most of it unpleasant and unbelievable. The show's press release says the play is about "the exhilarating, frightening, and strangely hilarious truth of what it takes to feel productive in a 24-hour world." To me, it was more about a pair of evil geniuses who manipulate the bejesus out of two possibly innocent people (except one of those possibly innocent people has a very nasty, volatile alter ego). In the final analysis, One Thousand Blinks has no purpose that I could discern, nor much in the way of redeeming social value.

Which is a shame, because the play is very competently produced, directed, and acted. The fine cast of four includes Mark Cajigao as the hapless Morgan, Estelle Bajou as Jenny, Rachel Cornish as the measured but sinister Dr. Luk, and Drew Hirshfield as uber-geek Bram (Hirshfield's awkward posture and ceaseless body shifting tell us acres about the insecurities of this guy). Malinda Sorci directs, making effective use of 59e59's smallest space.