Eyes in the sky

The performance piece “Now Eye See You, Now Eye Don’t” offers a visual experience into the process one man’s failing eyesight.

Eyes in the sky

by Joseph Kleinschmidt


What: Off-Leash Area Presents: âÄúNow Eye See You, Now Eye DonâÄôtâÄù
When: Today through May 7
Where: Ritz Theater, 345 13th Ave. NE
Cost: $15-20, sliding scale

Paul Herwig does not have 20/20 vision. The local director is forced to ride a bicycle on his daily commute because legally, he cannot drive a car. HerwigâÄôs recent surgery for a torn retina led him to examine closely the health care industryâÄôs shortsightedness.

While most people might blindly accept their eyesâÄô eventual fate with disdain, he does so with humor and creativity. Herwig and fellow Off-Leash Area Theatre Company founder Jennifer Ilse employ their sharp creative vision to capture HerwigâÄôs experiences in âÄúNow Eye See You, Now Eye DonâÄôt.âÄù The two will debut the performance tonight at the Ritz Theater.

âÄúA lot of the stuff comes from PaulâÄôs experiences with his own vision problems and his views on the art world,âÄù said Dominic Orlando, a local playwright who provided much of the text for the performance.

The work features a wry commentary on the health care industry and insurance offices, saturated with irreverent dark humor. In collaboration with Orlando, the pieceâÄôs inherent visual modes ironically provide the framework for the modern fable. âÄúItâÄôs about a painter becoming successful as heâÄôs going blind,âÄù said Orlando.

Originally from New York, Orlando has contributed locally, nationally and even internationally to theater. He finds MinneapolisâÄô theater scene to be unique among other hubs across the U.S.

âÄúItâÄôs about the percentage of people involved in the arts, which is unnaturally high [in Minneapolis] compared to other cities,âÄù said Orlando.

Known for experimental, highly visual performance pieces, Off-Leash Area utilizes small audiences in stylized productions. Dance, music and visual art inundate the intimate stage for âÄúNow Eye See You.âÄù Complete with a giant rolling eyeball, Off-LeashâÄôs critical acclaim should undoubtedly focus audiencesâÄô attention on the pieceâÄôs tale of dignity and hope.

Crafting original performance work since 1999, Off-LeashâÄôs accolades and success stem from the exciting original material overflowing from Herwig and IIse. With collective backgrounds in theater, visual arts, music and dance, the duo ostensibly forms an ideal launching pad for their personal performances. Originally a visual artist, Herwig offers a unique perspective to âÄúNow Eye See You.âÄù

As a visual artist, HerwigâÄôs exhibitions led him to Detroit, Toronto and the Twin Cities. The director has worked teaching theater workshops as well as a variety of other roles. When casting dancers for a past performance, he met Ilse, and the two started a lifelong relationship with the creation of Off-Leash Area.

âÄúHeâÄôs got one foot in the fine art world,âÄù said Orlando. âÄúThe play breaks down into three worlds. The medical world, the art world and the world of the insurance company.âÄù This perspective fuels the strife and story of loss apparent in the production.

Apart from the dramatic irony onstage, the production dissects the art world alongside the sterile offices of corporations dominating the painterâÄôs health care.

Works from Off-Leash Area often reflect the human condition, rife with themes of anger or loneliness. The hybrid productions of theater and dance lend unique insight to common narratives, never delving too far into melodrama. Dance and humor offer respite and interaction with audiences.

âÄúItâÄôs extremely unique and exciting. The collision of images and tap dancing and movements âÄî you donâÄôt really see it anywhere else,âÄù said Orlando.