“Behind the Eye” tells the story of an incredible woman who goes from modeling in Paris to photography in World War II. If you’ve never heard of her one of the best ways to get to know Lee Miller is to watch the performance of Carson Kreitzer’s “Behind the Eye”. Though the play is based on a real person, it’s not just a historical account of her life. Lisa Jo Epstein makes Lee Miller pop off the stage as a powerful but sad figure trying to find her way in life. She brings the play over from Philadelphia at the Gas and Electric Arts theater.
In “Behind the Eye” Lee Miller is looking back on her life and reflecting on her experiences. Two actress play Lee Miller, with Allison Wray as Lee Miller one and Sarah Williams A Lee Miller two. Though both were by far the biggest characters in the play Wray had more to do. She played Lee in the past and was the one having the experiences. Williams was the older Miller who often pause the scene and talk about what she was thinking at the time. The situation was a bit confusing at first, but it quickly became easy to follow over time. The two Miller’s played out like thoughts and arguments in her head.
It’s tough to summarize the structure but it can easily be divided up by the men in her life. She was with Man Ray and did absurdist art in Paris, then she went along with Aziz to Egypt. She got restless there and made her way back to Paris where she met Roland Penrose and began her longest relationship. She also had a brief fling with fellow photographer David Scherman.
The acting was solid, but none of the men really got a chance to stand out as their time on stage was limited due to the structure of the play. The bulk of the play was on the shoulders of Wray and Williams. The two actresses had good chemistry together and played off one another well. Epstein brought her own art people with her from Philadelphia give the production a special flair.
At one point towards the beginning of the play Miller looks into a mirror and several of the men in her life run around her in a circle while holding mirrors themselves. Music came on at key points to portray a certain mood. One of the highlights for me was when Miller returned to Paris. There was an absurdist costume party; people were wearing gas masks and long trench coats and the music and lighting were creepy and unnerving. The party goers danced in sync with the music and it all provided the perfect tone for the scene.
I read the play before seeing the play, but it might be better to see the play first and then go back and read it afterwards. Having two actresses play Lee Miller was a risk that ultimately paid off for Epstein as it works very well visually. “Behind the Eye” is a play full of risks that end up paying off.