BWW Review: PRIVATE EYES by Steven Dietz Takes a 'Comedy of Suspicion' a Bit Too Far

Nothing is ever quite what it seems. Matthew's wife, Lisa, is having an affair with Adrian, a British theatre director. Or perhaps the affair is part of the play being rehearsed. Or perhaps Matthew has imagined all of it simply to have something to report to Frank, his therapist. Finally, there is Cory-the mysterious woman who seems to shadow the others-who brings the story to its surprising conclusion. Or does she? The audience itself plays the role of detective in this hilarious "relationship thriller" about love, lust and the power of deception.

Unfortunately, the PRIVATE EYES story is impossible to follow as it was so non-linear that you never know who to believe when. So that was just too confusing for my taste as after a while, I just didn't care about the characters or what was going to happen to them. And the lighting was off with several characters often appearing to miss their marks, being in no light or half-light during their downstage monologues. However, those who enjoy stories that jump around, keeping you wondering exactly what is going on and what is real and what is made up, this is the show for you. Just don't expect any answers or valid clues from the characters.

While I appreciate the actors were doing their best, the shining stars are Chris Silvestri as the British director Adrian and Taylor Patterson at his wife Cory. Patterson lights up the stage with her presence every moment she is there and Silvrestri's swagger and stunning physique will definitely grab your attention! Eric Pierce and Kelsey Peterjohn play husband and wife actors Matthew and Lisa, but what is true about their lives and what is made up was never clear enough to understand. As their therapist Frank, Mouchette van Helsdingen stays onstage for most of the second act, watching as the scenes play out, both real and imaginary, as she attempts to help the two actors work their lives out, together and separately. She may be the only frank character in the show who always tells the truth.

Dietz had started to write the play as early as 1990 with the title "The Usual Suspects." This version had a stage reading by the Arizona Theatre Company in 1992. Later, Christopher McQuarrie wrote a hit movie with that title, and Dietz "begrudgingly" changed his title. By sheer coincidence, both the play and the movie leave the viewer at the end somewhat dishearteningly uncertain if anything just seen happened "for real" (in the play or movie) or if all scenes were merely fantasized by one of the characters.

Brandon Baer directs for the first time at the Morgan-Wixson. Brandon is an LA-based director of both film and theater, having most-recently directed the pilot episode of LIFE ON MARS. His work in theatre has earned him 4 StageSceneLA awards for Best Director for his productions of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS, MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG, AND TICK, TICK... BOOM! His film work has been featured on Funny or Die and in the following festivals: Los Angeles Independent Film Festival, LA Reel Film Festival, IndieFEST, MyHero International Film Festival, Pasadena International Film Festival. I just think he cared more about the stylized appearance of PRIVATES EYES rather than reaching out and making the plot more understandable and interesting to the audience.

PRIVATE EYES by Steven Dietz runs January 16th through February 7th, 2016 on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm at Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Boulevard (Pico @ 27th Street), Santa Monica, CA 90405 The production is directed by Brandon Baer and produced by Larry Gesling.

CAST: Eric Pierce, Kelsey Peterjohn, Chris Silvestri, Taylor Paterson, Mouchette Van Helsdingen, Rachel Seeley

Reserved seats start at $23 online at or call the theatre box office at 310-828-7519.

Photos by Joel Castro

Chris Silvestri, Kelsey Peterjohn

Eric Pierce, Kelsey Peterjohn

Taylor Patterson

Taylor Patterson, Kelsey Peterjohn

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From This Author Shari Barrett