We piece together the facts through fragmented scenes, which move relentlessly over time and space. Nikolai Koslov is an architect whose wife and two young children have died in a plane collision, caused by an air traffic control blunder. My Eyes Went Dark is a chilling examination of what follows, of a man in the throes of grief.
Cal MacAninch gives an impressive performance as Nikolai, digging deep into his desperation and providing us with a shifting, multi-faceted portrayal. At times he is helpless and distraught, at others, calculated and unforgiving, a man treading the fine line between sanity and insanity. Matthew Wilkinson’s script mines the depths of despair, showing us the full scope of Nikolai’s emotion and experience. Thusitha Jayasundera plays the supporting roles, which she switches between with ease. One minute she is a psychologist, the next a child, the next the offending air traffic controller’s wife. Her performances are measured and assured; she is utterly captivating in each role she takes on.
The play circles back on itself, returning to the moment Nikolai tells his wife he is leaving to take the job in Nice where they will fly out to visit him. The scene brings with it a sense of poignant inevitability. There are a few powerful moments of high intensity and memorable images – such as the moment Nikolai shows one of his son’s friends (played by Jayasundera) pictures of his dead family. The daughter is miraculously unmarked; a shroud covers his wife; but the son, we understand is seriously disfigured. The child screams and tries to escape but Nikolai holds on, wanting someone else to share in his grief, to look at the images which have come to mean so much to him. However, the script dawdles a little between these significant moments and loses momentum. If stripped back and tightened up, it could be a slicker, more riveting hour-long performance.
This is a play that asks questions about grief and moral responsibility by showing them in practice, thereby causing us to question how we would behave in similar circumstances. Can we condemn Nikolai when he has so much taken away from him? But just how valid is his blind blame? My Eyes Went Dark is clever and compelling for the most part, but slower scenes which lack the direction and focus of others, prevent it from being outstanding.