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THEATER BEAT

Sweet, 'Sensitive' Miracle Illuminates Life

July 29, 1994|F. KATHLEEN FOLEY

There's a beautiful white cat lounging on top of the garbage outside Tom Hanratty's apartment in New York's Hell's Kitchen, an unheard-of sight in this grimy, rat-ridden neighborhood.

The cat must be an omen. A miracle is about to happen--or so insists Edna (Carol Sigurdson), Tom's new volunteer reader. After all, it's Christmas. And Tom (Greg Mullavey), who was blinded in an accident eight years ago, is long overdue for a little seasonal magic.

The miracle is that the withdrawn and embittered Tom is lured back into the world of the living by the sheltered Edna, and that the two fall in love. However, by the end of Jim Geoghan's "Light Sensitive," now playing at Actors Alley, one realizes that the real miracle is the play itself, a sweetly sentimental drama that radiantly illuminates the human condition.

A thumbnail sketch of Geoghan's premise--blue-collar blind man finds love with dowdy East Side girl--sounds like an overblown television movie plot. And indeed, in the hands of a less masterly craftsman, this could have been sheer melodrama. But Geoghan understands how to move without manipulating, how to gently uplift rather than detonate. His is a simple tale of believable people, with all their fears, flaws, needs and nobilities presented intact.

Everett Chambers directs with unassuming straightforwardness, the requisite approach to Geoghan's simple story. A formidable performer, Mullavey splendidly charts Tom's progression from surliness and despair to giddy romantic exhilaration. Carl Strano is also superb as Tom's longtime friend Lou, who is jealous of Edna's influence with his buddy. Sigurdson is, on first impression, less technically competent than the men in the cast, but her undemonstrative sincerity is ultimately very affecting.

As for Geoghan's play, it is a simple treasure to cherish, precious, with none of the negative connotations of that word.

* "Light Sensitive," Actors Alley, 5220 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Ends Aug. 21. $18. (818) 508-4200. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes.

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