Dark at the End of the Tunnel is a one-man show about a blind man who lost his sight slowly over time, and who is coming to grips with the possibility that he may have just beaten a man to death. The audience is taken on a journey that ping pongs from the blind man’s childhood to the love of his life, with confusing bits thrown in of his obsession with General Curtis LeMay. The play is written and performed by actor/playwright Paden Fallis, and directed by Chuck Hudson. While it is clear that a lot of time and passionate energy was put into the project, the show fails on almost every level.
The action takes place in a black-box theater with only a single chair. It begins in darkness, helping the audience to understand a world without sight. Slowly, the lights come up to reveal the blind man, equipped with a walking stick. This prop may be the only defining factor of the character’s lack of sight. The actor slipped in and out of the impediment of blindness many times throughout the performance. If the breaks in character were meant to be intentional, indicating the difference between the present and the blind man’s baffling flashbacks, then the transitions were not smooth enough for the audience to follow.
Fallis is a very talented and impassioned actor, but the material is so sloppy that it doesn't allow him to truly shine. Much of the one hour performance is overacted and unrealistic. The melodrama of the action becomes very distracting and the few comic moments in the play are written and performed strictly for the punch line.
There are moments in the story that are true and heartfelt. At times, the story is so fluid and candid that the audience can’t help but lean forward and open their ears, sympathizing and hanging on every word. Then just as quickly, the story takes a grand leap into a completely unrelated anecdote and everyone is so thrown that it is just easier to tune out.
The play bounces around from meaningless memory to meaningless memory. It is a winding stream of consciousness that no one can quite follow. But the most pressing question resting uneasily on everyone’s minds is this: Why doesn’t this man seem at all phased that he may have just killed someone in cold blood? That question goes unanswered, unfortunately.
The blind man describes losing his sight slowly by saying, “Once it starts, it’s already gone.” That phrase could easily be applied to this production. Hopes were high for this ambitious play. On paper, it all sounded promising. But Dark at the End of the Tunnel just doesn’t deliver.
Dark at the End of the Tunnel; directed by Chuck Hudson; written by Paden Fallis; Theatre Row as part of the United Solo Theatre Festival, 410 West 42nd Street, NYC. www.unitedsolo.org