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Big Idea’s ‘Private Eyes’: Who’s zoomin’ who?

With all of the social media outlets available to theater professionals – arguably one of the Sacramento area’s most "vocal" populations now posting, tweeting, webbing and pinning – it’s a challenge for those company members charged with "getting the word out" to play it close to their Velcroed vests to avoid spilling "spoilers."

But that’s exactly the very thin, gaffer-taped line that director Jouni Kirjola is walking these days as he promotes the Big Idea Theatre production of "Private Eyes," playing April 26 through May 25.

"It’s so hard to describe without giving away the secrets," said Kirjola of the show, what playwright Steven Dietz calls a “relationship thriller.” "It’s an exploration of relationships and dynamics within relationships, but also of perceptions. Maybe I should just say it’s a fast-paced, comedic, dramatic, schizophrenic exploration of deception within relationships."

The title of the play might suggest it’s something of a play noir, about a hard-boiled detective, a leggy lady in distress, a menacing mobster and a gal Friday all in pursuit of some mysterious (albeit valuable) objet d’art. But as Kirjola says, “Private Eyes” is more about betrayal on an emotional level, and how emotions (and the passage of time) can alter one’s recollections and interpretations of the past.

“It has heart, it has emotion, it has sex, it has a lot of comedy – it has a little bit of everything,” said Kirjola, a second-year Big Idea company member whose directorial credits include 2012’s “Moonlight and Magnolias.”

Told in a decidedly non-linear style, and featuring a plot course with more twists and turns than a Formula One race track, it’s a show best seen when fully rested, when one’s eyes aren’t prone to flutter and one’s chin isn’t likely to fall to chest level.

But as much as he’d like audiences to put their faith in him and his cast without a word of preface, he’s aware that in this information age people prefer to take journeys of discovery only after having read the last screen of a text.

For those folks, he offers this hors d’oeuvre of an overview: “Matthew’s wife, Lisa, may be having an affair with Adrian, a British theater director. Or, perhaps, the affair is part of a play being rehearsed. Or could it be Matthew has imagined all of it simply to have something to report to his therapist Frank? And who is the mysterious woman who seems to shadow the others?”

“Nothing is as it seems,” said Kirjola. “That’s part of the fun of it – nothing is certain; it inspires conversations and warrants a second viewing.”

The cast features Bert Andersson as Adrian, Kristine David as Lisa, Dan Featherston as Matthew, Nina Collins as the “mysterious woman,” and Big Idea company member Gregory Smith as Frank.

Kirjola credits his actors for tackling the play’s admittedly steep peak, and for reaching the rarefied air of its summit.

“The script is extremely complex,” said Kirjola. “It has so many different layers. There are alternate realities, flashbacks told out of order. But each of the actors has truly delivered not only an understanding of the show itself, but of each of the characters. And that’s important because each character should have a soul, and be relatable to the audience somehow. The cast has really delivered that heart and soul.”

Kirjola discovered the play during one of Big Idea’s regular confabs when the company’s upcoming season is mapped out, and its members decide who is going to take on directorial duties.

“I just latched onto it,” said the Placerville native. “It was my favorite show out of all the plays we read. I pushed hard for it with my intention of directing it. Every actor in the show gets to play every emotion, so it’s a fun story to tell. I just got super excited about it.”

“Though I’m more of an actor than a director, this play really spoke to me,” continued Kirjola (“Arcadia”). “Even when I’m directing, I come to a play as an actor and will help my cast discover their characters. There’s so much going on with this script in particular, so I worked with each actor on points of humanity, and tried to engender a sense of fun during the process. I encourage them to try new things, and to join them in that process is definitely fun for me.”

Just as his cast has done, Kirjola said he hopes Sacramento-area audiences will take the leap with him to discover all that “Private Eyes” has to offer.

“Even my friends are cautious about seeing new shows because they’ve seen so much bad theater,” said Kirjola. “But this is an incredibly engaging show, and I think people – even those who don’t like theater, or have been bored by plays in the past – might be surprised at how entertaining it is.”

“Everyone has been lied to or deceived. We’re all ‘private eyes’ throughout the show; we’re all trying to put all of the loose ends together and solve the mystery. That, in itself, makes ‘Private Eyes’ an extremely rewarding and exciting – and fun – adventure.”


WHAT: The Big Idea Theatre production of Steven Dietz’s "Private Eyes"

WHEN: April 26 through May 25, 2013, with performances at 8 p.m. April 26 and 27, May 2 through 4, May 9 through 11, May 16 through 18, May 23 through 25

WHERE: Big Idea Theatre, 1616 Del Paso Blvd., Sacramento, Calif.

WHO: Directed by Jouni Kirjola; featuring Bert Andersson (Adrian), Kristine David (Lisa), Dan Featherston (Matthew), Gregory Smith (Frank), "Mysterious Woman" (Nina Collins)

HOW MUCH: $14-$16 (online); $18-$20 (at the door); $10 "Thrifty Thursday" tickets available May 2, 9, 17, 24

MORE INFO: Call (916) 960-3036; www.bigideatheatre.com

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