nytheatre.com review by Matthew Trumbull
August 12, 2006
Marilee Talkington moves about the stage in her autobiographical one-woman show Truce in the manner of any savvy solo performer: sitting on a chair, sitting on the floor, crossing from one end to the other, standing still and facing the audience squarely. She is an actress by trade, an excellent one, and has youth, beauty, and all the standard tools for a career in the glorious arts (and a Fringe show, at that) except one: sight.
Marilee Talkington is blind. Legally, not totally. She has no straight-on visual perception; it is only on the periphery that objects take shape—and even that ability is degenerating steadily. In order to see her audience from the stage, she has to turn her head toward the wings and fit them into a shrinking field of vision that surrounds a fuzzy patch in the middle that has been growing since she was a child. Nevertheless, most of the time, she faces us like any other performer, and moves about the stage with no perceptible impairment or aid. Talkington uses a cane when she enters, but once onstage the cane serves mostly in a mock-broomstick capacity between her legs, when she is describing fights with her mother.
One-person, what-a-crazy-life-I've-led shows walk a minefield of potential flaws, from stagnancy to unbridled egotism. Talkington has a different tale to tell, although her own life is the subject. She feels sighted. Three giddy discoveries of her life—basketball, the opposite sex, and the stage—are instinctually visual for those of us who take such vision for granted. Her story is sublimely theatrical, because a tense conflict rages through it between pride and reconcilement, and it contains powerful, funny stories of adapting her body to visually-based challenges, often mastering them beyond the ability of the sighted, as in the case of free-throws and three-pointers on the high school basketball court. It took three successful baskets from any point she stood, and then her body would need nothing more in order to know the exact force needed to arc the ball through the hoop from that spot, without any visual help at all.
Talkington shares bravely, exploring intimate yet universal territory in her experience that is hyper-sensual, oriented to emotions through sound and touch in a way that might cause a seeing person both marvel and recognition. She and her director, Justin Quinn Pelegano, keep the show fresh throughout, using the stage well and changing moods without getting stuck on any one note for too long. Her piece has an arc that feels true, and apt for her current situation in life. Her eye disease, which she inherited from her mother who is also blind, is irreversible and getting worse. She ends the play with bittersweet experiences that aren't happy-ever-after, or morally pompous, but instead mature and graceful. After a lifetime of struggling with her mother's philosophy of faking sight to shun anything that made her stand out, she finds strength in her mother's decisions to enroll in college and blind school, a place she is forced to consider now more than ever. She attends conferences for the blind, and finds support there (as well as some hilariously-described orgies). And near the end, she discovers she can now comfortably yell at her boyfriend about the toilet seat without feeling the need to look straight at a face she can't see, an uncomfortable longtime habit meant to put other people's ease ahead of her own.