Big Idea company member and "Private Eyes" director Jouni Kirjola shares his thoughts about the world of the play and bringing this challenging piece of theatre to life.
It's interesting to note that Steven Dietz originally called this play "The Usual Suspects." But when an unrelated movie with the same title became a huge hit, Dietz begrudgingly changed the name of his play to "Private Eyes." While I think the title makes sense, I'd be lying if I said I loved it. I think it tends to conjure up images of 80's pop sensation Hall & Oates. And that is never a good thing. But, like I said, it makes sense. Besides the fact that private eyes are frequently discussed throughout the play, we, the audience, are the ultimate private eyes in this play, sifting through deception at every turn. It's actually a very unconventional mystery thriller.
"Private Eyes" is quite simply one of the most intriguing plays I've ever read. It's exploration of deception and infidelity and how all of that plays into the art of theatre is delicious. The first time I read it, I remember being simultaneously confused by the play's structure and delighted by the words coming out of the character's mouths. I also remember thinking I wanted to play the role of "Matthew." But as I continued to read the play, I became so obsessed with how Dietz was using the art of theatre to explore the art of deception that I knew I had to direct it.
The biggest challenge in dissecting this piece was unraveling the lies and sorting out the order of events in the play. This had to come first because we all needed to find a place to begin. Dietz gives us a lot of clues in the text as to what is real and what is fantasy or "made up" but he also leaves a lot unanswered. I think all parties involved can agree it was a frustrating yet ultimately rewarding process.
In terms of themes, the play deals with deception and infidelity; broken trust. These themes are timeless and universal. But it's the structure of the play that captured me from the beginning. Dietz has brilliantly structured his play in such a way that we, the audience, feel at times like jilted lovers. We're sitting in our theater seats, watching this play and we're comfortable with the "reality" the play lays out for us. It all starts very simply with a scene of an actor auditioning for a director. But when Dietz's mischievous story structure shifts and we realize we've been lied to, that's when the fun starts.