By and large, any time I walk out of the doors of the Cape Fear Regional Theatre after seeing a play, I know how I feel about it. That was not the case with The Bluest Eye, the currently staged production.
I can say, with no problem, that the show was masterfully staged and the acting was superb. It was the content that left me — well, to be honest —disturbed. That was the intent.
The Bluest Eye explores the idea of beauty. And while, in this instance, the story is told from the perspective of an African-American girl, the theme is universal. What is beauty? Who defines it? And, how do we define it
I went to the play knowing those were the questions that would be tackled but there was so much more in the subtext — and that is probably what left me the most disturbed.
I am southern by birth, but I grew up in a military family, which means we moved a lot and we were exposed to a lot of different people, different ideas and different cultures. I see myself blessed for having those opportunities that broadened my perspective. But maybe that perspective is naïve.
That is the uncomfortable truth that I took away from The Bluest Eye.
As I mentioned, the play’s core discusses the idea of beauty in America. But its subtext also deals with the simmering anger that lies just beneath the surface in all relations — not just racial relations. The fact that that aspect was told through the eyes and the voice of a child makes it so much more impactful. When the idea of hating Shirley Temple for her curls and whiteness was expressed, it quite literally took my breath away. When one of the daughters talked about mutilating her blonde baby doll, it was a revelation. It reminded me all too clearly that until you live in someone else’s skin, you can’t truly see life from their perspective.
CFRT Artistic Director Tom Quaintance noted during his pre-performance welcome that the great thing about this production was the community conversations it is generating. I think an even greater impact is the personal reflection it will generate.
I could spend a lot of space and type telling you how great the actors were — and they were. I could tell you about the brilliant staging or lighting, but that isn’t what matters. The Bluest Eye may well be one of the most important plays staged this year because of its content— not it’s window dressing.
I’m still processing my feelings about the play. I’m still working my way through it. But there is one thing I know without a doubt. This is a play that can’t be missed.