Short Eyes set for Los Angeles Theatre Center
For the first time in a decade, "Short Eyes" will be produced in Los Angeles. West Coast rights to the play have been unavailable for ten years, and Urban Theatre Movement is the first company to receive authorization to present this controversial piece after its long absence from Los Angeles stages, making this new production an Event.
When first produced in 1974 at the Public Theatre in New York, the play won the Obie Award and swiftly moved to Broadway, winning the New York Critics Circle Award for Best New American Play and the Drama Desk Award.
The tough, unforgiving environment of a New York City detention center is the setting for the play's story. The population of the institution is an assembly of racially and ethnically divided cliques in an internally constructed society with its own rules and boundaries, peopled with violent felons, thieves and killers, whom the world at large has locked away for its protection. Into the midst of these desperate men is inserted a new prisoner, a middle-class white man named Clark, accused of child rape. Men like Clark are dubbed "Short Eyes" by the other prisoners and even among criminals are considered the vilest of the vile. Gentle-mannered Clark, surrounded by tough customers, had better make some friends fast, if he is to survive at all. He gets the ear of an inmate named Juan, but Juan must keep Clark at arm's length for Juan's own protection. Clark is clearly a sick man, thrust in the midst of career criminals. Can he possibly survive? Given the extreme nature of his offense, can even the theatre audience recognize his underlying humanity?
Playwright Miguel Pinero (1946-1988) was born in Puerto Rico and raised in New York in an impoverished family. He wrote "Short Eyes" while incarcerated in Sing Sing prision for armed robbery. Once paroled, he co-founded the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and wrote plays prolifically, including "The Sun Always Shines for the Cool," "Eulogy for a Small Time Thief," "Playland Blues," "Midnight Moon at the Greasy Spoon," and more. He also wrote for episodic television ("Baretta," "Miami Vice") as well as the screenplay for "Short Eyes." He also achieved success as an actor, appearing in major Hollywood films ("Alphabet City," the remake of "Breathless," "Deal of the Century," "Exposed," "Short Eyes" and more). Pinero died of cirrhosis in New York at 42.
Julian Acosta directs the Urban Theatre Movement cast of "Short Eyes." A member of the famed LAByrinth Theater Company in New York, he appeared there in multiple productions with them as well as in Austria and Germany in Peter Sellars' mounting of "Othello" (with Philip Seymour Hoffman). Locally, he's appeared at South Coast Repertory in "Anna in the Tropics" and in "Lovers and Executioners," for which he received a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle nomination. Born in Puerto Rico, he received his Master's Degree from Rutgers University.
The cast of "Short Eyes": Miguel Amenyinu, Carl Crudup, Cris D'Annunzio, Daryl Anthony Harper, Matthew Jaeger, Benny Nieves, Jason Olazabal, Matias Ponce, Mark Rolston, Donte Wince, Daniel Zornes.
Urban Theatre Movement Artistic Director: Julian Acosta. Producing Director: Paul Tully. Associate producer: Roger Q. Mason. Stage manager: Evelyn Arreaga.
A dinner-and-show package option is available on Friday and Saturday evenings. Performances can be preceded with dinner one-half block from the theatre at The Gorbals Restauarant, 501 S. Spring Street. Patrons will be able to order from a special menu for theatregoers. The establishment's Scottish-inspired menu features both meat-based and vegetarian entrees. At $40, the dinner-and-show package is an outstanding bargain.