Amara Heyland Morrin and Juliet Martin

The Dazzle is dazzlingly sad. Langley Collyer (Ben Galvin), a failed pianist, suffers from acute obsessions and paranoia. His brother, Homer (William Battey) tries to keep them both alive. The sadness of the brothers’ situation is doubled by the fact that Langley, who notices the things everyone else misses, doesn’t always sense his brother’s despair.

Milly (Juliet Martin) is not from their world: she is hurt for having fallen into it to marry Langley – a marriage that he cancels on the wedding day. Milly reappears in the play’s second part, years later, destitute and destroyed by the tragedies in her own family, which, by comparison, brighten even the brothers’ lives. Homer, with a new purpose in rescuing Milly, proposes to her, to Langley’s dismay at the collapse of their fragile domestic order. 

Greenberg has found poetry in the overlooked and in real life.

The play, then, has classical proportions, and it is a mighty feat that this small and precise cast have shaped it into performances that earn the scale of their emotional content. The brothers are brilliant. Galvin’s serious and powerful performance fits the role of Langley perfectly and suits a character that feels everything so sharply. Battey works differently, and as impressively, with much softer edges, adjusting the highly-strung tone set by Galvin to a very human and understanding register. Each brother is more valuable in partnership with the other. That fact of family, which fails but never goes away, gives the play its tragic strength.

Amara Heyland Morrin and Juliet Martin

It is a tricky task to intrude on the performances of the brothers, but Juliet Martin makes the pair look beyond themselves, and the scenes with the three in ensemble have some of the play’s fullest ranges of tone (it’s a surprisingly funny play despite the heaps of sadness). Martin brings a levity and worldly honesty without which the play would run the risk of exhausting audiences. As it is some of the scenes are too hard-edged; but the story is forceful, and so relentlessly tests the actors’ control.


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Stunningly, Richard Greenberg’s story is true (the brothers were discovered dead in their New York home in 1947) and he matches its brutal drama with a beautiful poetry. You can hear a prosodic measure underscoring the dialogue, which is poetry working with the obsessively measured Collyer lives. Langley, looking out the window, watches the ‘unleafing of the day’. The Dazzle is a story about noticing little things, and reimagining the world with this new focus. That is to describe the condition of a good poet: Greenberg has found poetry in the overlooked and in real life.

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