It seems simple enough, a play that is limited to a set that is one room with three beds, all of them occupied by women from different contexts with the most diverse set of needs, cutting as they do across generations. This room is sparsely furnished, has a TV that doesn’t work, stark white sheets that speak as well of the cold cold winter outside.
It is in North Dakota as it is in the middle of nowhere. It could also be anywhere really, this narrative of two lives intertwined by the limits of a room, the sadness of an ending, the undoing that’s in the lack of a future.
For teenager Courtney (Jenny Jamora) and elderly lady Elva (Joy Virata), this room is all of the world that they have. This is all they need.Not the power of the mind
It is easy to think that the point of “Mind’s Eye” is that the battle with loneliness and sadness, with being left behind—as these two women have been—is easily won by the mind’s power to shift perspective and think differently about one’s situation. And yet there is more here than just that cliché, especially in the face of a 16-year-old who can only become self-centered in her wallowing.
In “Mind’s Eye” the battle in fact is between Courtney and Elva, both wanting to escape not quite literally from that space, as they are wanting to escape from their own individual doldrums and regrets. Elva had always promised her dead husband that they would travel to Italy, but he died too soon, with no Italy trip in his memory. Courtney was angry with the world, abandoned as she had been by her father and stepmother, losing most her friends who remained their happy teenage selves.
Courtney could not be that, with legs paralyzed from a car accident, and an existence now limited to that bed, in an old people’s home in the middle of winter in North Dakota. She barely has visitors, and she is rarely in the mood for conversation. She is grumpy and can turn mean, especially since Elva was one to insist that they talk, about anything and everything in the world, about the fact that she needs Courtney to escape.
That is, escape via their imagination. Elva had kept an old travel book on Italy, the only one she needs to actually travel there. That is, Elva travels by having Courtney read the book’s descriptions of the city and its tourist spots. That is, Elva can get lost in the map that she is able to create in her head, of the city according to this travel book. She is able to travel with her dead husband, as she does insist that Courtney travel with them, because she must.
Courtney is resistant to the idea, half the time thinking it all stupid. Until of course she finds herself getting lost in the words too, if not in the fiction that she is allowed to create about that world, where she has legs, where she is young and excited, where she is herself.