Set in the grunge-soaked '90s, Alix Fenhagen's rock musical "Blind From Here," running through June 28 at Single Carrot Theatre, does little to summon nostalgia—not that we need or really want any more '90s-obsessed sentimentality. The selfishness, ineptitude, and careless rock-star attitudes of the main characters, the three members of the play's eponymous band, make them feel like overly earnest, unworthy Nirvana wannabes. Closing out the company's eighth season—its first full season at its new Remington location—the coming-of-age comedy written by ensemble member Fenhagen and directed by Stephen Nunns, with music composed by Nunns, Paul Diem, Jack Sossman, and Michael Kerr, embodies what we wish we could forget from our youth.
In a space designed to look like a dim rock club, with graffiti-like chalk drawings spanning the black walls of the theater and instruments and amps sitting on the corner stage, flanked by a pay phone, a radio station setup with keyboards, and two small bars that function both as a part of the set and as libation service to the audience, a trio of young musicians embark on a road trip for what they hope to be a game-changing gig. The play is filled with live, vaguely show-tune-y garage-rock numbers as well as a prerecorded score; however, the music ultimately recedes behind the actors' generally strong performances, particularly the multiple roles played by Caitlin Weaver and Holly Gibbs.
Fenhagen's premise is at once fascinating and unpleasantly familiar, we imagine, to anyone who wished to disappear in the throes of adolescence: a young adult, faced with the stress and uncertainty of a new frontier and the consequences of her and her friends' actions, chooses to hide from her problems by claiming to be stricken with blindness. After selling her beloved guitar "Molly" to pay for a new cabinet and surrendering, once again, to her douchebag bandmate-boyfriend's arrogant authority, her band's janky tour van hits and incapacitates a party-girl pedestrian, rounding out the overwhelming bleakness of her first steps away from her mother's protection. At the peak of her misfortune, Elsa (Britt Olsen-Ecker) shuts her eyes, refusing to open them, and claims to have a disability. It's just what she has to live with now, she tells her boyfriend, Christopher (Paul Diem), and the band's empty-headed drummer, Christopher’s brother Felix (Andrew Porter)—who resembles the funny, backwards-cap stoner dude in every '90s teen comedy.
Though Elsa fabricates a condition that many actually suffer from in an act of selfish cowardice, we can't help but empathize with her adolescent desire to shrink from the world. We remember, in the darkest and, frankly, now-embarrassing periods of our teenagerhood, wanting to become stricken with some circumstance that would prevent us from having to deal with the emerging doom of adulthood. We never took it so far—usually we'd just lock ourselves in our bedroom, blast My Chemical Romance, and pray to Tyler Durden to make us sick and not have to go to school.
The realness of Elsa's stupidity stings, though only briefly, as her "blindness" occurs relatively late in the play. The story is over before it feels resolved, and the play runs more like a drawn-out, 90-minute vignette—indeed, Fenhagen's play originated as a 10-minute piece, according to the playwright's note in the program. The plot is difficult to follow at times, as an older Elsa's interspersed, Patti-Smith-esque reflections, often in the form of introductions to overtly literal song titles such as 'Hunker Down And Wait While Shit Hits The Fan,' as well as drug-induced visions and radio commentary, begin to blur with the overarching action of the band's three members. As Elsa and Christopher shift rapidly between unclear states of consciousness and time, the story feels increasingly schizophrenic—perhaps appropriately, considering the druggy atmosphere and Elsa's spiraling anxiety. Still, we wish we could see greater focus devoted to Elsa facing the consequences of her actions and her weak attempt to escape them.