‘Eyes Shut, Door Open’ is shocking, intense, haunting

Melissa M. DeJesus and Victor Shopov in Wax Wings' "Eyes Shut, Doors Open." Photos: Nile Hawver/Nile Scott

Melissa M. DeJesus and Victor Shopov in Wax Wings Productions’ “Eyes Shut, Doors Open.” Photos: Nile Hawver/Nile Scott

ROXBURY – The inspiration for art comes from a very dark place in playwright Cassie M. Seinuk’s psychological thriller “Eyes Shut, Door Open,” being produced by Wax Wings Productions through Aug. 15.

Indeed, it explores some very dark places. Seinuk also asks whether children escape from the effects of trauma that parents or other family members have visited on them, or will they be doomed to repeat the cycle?

The piece is 90 minutes of no-holds-barred pure intensity, with an excellent, small three-person cast. There’s no chance of the intensity being lost in the Inner Sanctum, a intimate  artistic and creative space at 18 Palmer St. in Roxbury, just outside Dudley Square.

Turner Street (Victor L. Shopov) is a sensation on the art scene in SoHo in New York City with his bold portraits of eyes, mysterious portraits that are hard to turn away from.

But all is not well with him. He is haunted by disturbing voices that seems to be coming from beyond the grave, artfully created as part of the sound design by Patrick Greene.

There is probably no actor in the Greater Boston community who can match the intensity of Shopov at his best, and he proves it again as Turner Street. As he is showing off his latest works in a SoHo gallery, he is drawn to a server working the event. Melissa M. DeJesus is Johanna, who seeks out Turner’s company and agrees to go home with him.

Michael James Underhill has done fine work for Imaginary Beast and other fringe and mid-size troupes and here he shines as Palmer, Turner’s troubled, pill-popping, eyepatch-wearing younger brother, maimed in a car accident on the day of his father’s funeral.

He shows up unannounced at Turner’s apartment seeking drugs and refuge – not necessarily in that order – and throws the planned tryst into chaos.

Nothing is as it seems at the beginning, and that goes double for the mysterious Johanna, who in truth is posing as a server to get close enough to Turner to write about him. She agrees to stay with Turner only if he agrees to allow Palmer to stay the night and she seems eager – maybe too eager – to explore closely the relationship between the brothers

And there’s the matter of Turner and Palmer’s father, who apparently died in a fire under mysterious circumstances. What actually happened, and what will the startling revelations mean about what really inspired Turner’s art?

Seinuk’s piece, in her program notes, is at least partially born of her own experiences with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, just as Turner and Palmer’s father was molded by his experiences in Vietnam.

Seinuk slowly peels back the layers of the onion over what exactly inspired Turner to create the paintings, and how confronting the demons involved might cost him dearly.

Director Christopher Randolph keeps the tension ratcheted up to almost unbearable levels. The shocking ending will shake you, as if you haven’t already been shaken before.

“Eyes Shut, Door Open” is a promising piece, deserving of a wider audience. The cast is all in in this production that ends Saturday.

Wax Wings Productions’ “Eyes Shut, Door Open.” By Cassie M. Seinuk. Directed by Christopher Randoloph. At the Inner Sanctum, 4 Palmer St., Roxbury through Aug. 15. waxwings productions.com.

 

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