Sight Unseen (play)

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Sight Unseen
Written by Donald Margulies
Date premiered September 1991
Place premiered South Coast Repertory
Costa Mesa, California
Original language English
Subject A celebrated American artist reunites with his former lover fifteen years after they parted ways
Genre Drama
Setting England

Sight Unseen is a play by Donald Margulies. At its center is Jonathan Waxman, a Brooklyn Jew who has become a very wealthy critically acclaimed artist. Happily married, with a baby on the way, he travels to London for a retrospective of his work. While there, he impulsively decides to journey to the countryside to visit his former model and lover Patricia in the Norfolk farmhouse where she lives and works with her archeologist husband Nick, an older man she married in order to remain in England when her student visa expired. The play unfolds in a non-linear progression, with forward and backward jumps in time that eventually lead to the beginning of a relationship that ended without satisfactory closure.

The play was commissioned and first staged by South Coast Repertory in September 1991. The off-Broadway production by the Manhattan Theatre Club opened on January 7, 1992 at the company's Stage II, where it ran for 103 performances before transferring to the Orpheum Theatre, where it ran for an additional 190 performances. Michael Bloom directed a cast that included Dennis Boutsikaris as Jonathan, Deborah Hedwall as Patricia, and Jon De Vries as Nick. Laura Linney appeared in the small supporting role of Grete, a young German journalist. Lou Liberatore replaced Boutsikaris and Margaret Colin replaced Hedwall later in the run.

Margulies won the Obie Award for Best New American Play, and Boutsikaris and Headwall were honored for their performances. Linney won the Theatre World Award. Margulies was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Play, and the John Gassner Award, presented to a new American playwright.

After 21 previews, a Broadway revival directed by Daniel J. Sullivan and produced by Manhattan Theatre Club opened on May 25, 2004 at the Biltmore Theatre. It closed after 70 performances. The cast included Ben Shenkman as Jonathan, Laura Linney as Patricia, and Byron Jennings as Nick.

Ben Brantley of the New York Times observed, "Mr. Margulies, the author of The Loman Family Picnic and Dinner With Friends, has never been merely a satirist. His plays are usually about how time and memory transform feelings, relationships and the perception of the past. In scrambling chronology to consider the life and losses of Jonathan Waxman, Sight Unseen becomes a commentary on the sacrifices entailed in getting older and getting ahead." [1]

Linney was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play, but in both instances lost to Cherry Jones for Doubt: A Parable, another Manhattan Theatre Club production.


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