Review: 'Beyond Sight' is heartfelt but sprawling effort at Adler

“Beyond Sight” at the Stella Adler is an original musical produced by CRE Outreach, a program that works with military veterans and the local blind community. 

"Sight" has been largely inspired directly by the experiences of those CRE serves, and although the result is heartfelt, the heavy hand of committee design weighs down this well-meaning but inexpert production.

The story concerns Jack, a young ROTC trainee deployed to Afghanistan shortly after 9/11. Blinded by an IED, Jack is taken hostage by terrorists and held captive for 10 years before returning home to cope with his sightlessness – not to mention a raging post-traumatic stress disorder that threatens his relationship with girlfriend Lily (Ginger Lawrence), who remains loyal to Jack throughout all travails. 

Engaging Raufel Muhammed plays young Jack; blind performer Robert Smith plays the older, traumatized Jack. Both bring touching sincerity to their roles, as does Lawrence, a petite performer who served four actual combat tours in the Middle East. 

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The original music is by Mark P. Leonard and Colin Simson. Simson also shares credit with Greg Shane and a plethora of other lyricists – another example of too many cooks.

Leonard’s shrill musical direction strains the performers' voices far beyond their mostly modest range, while the overwrought book by Nick Sivakumaran and Jeremy Aldridge relies on clichés and overstatement, never fully explicating the animus between various characters and jerking from scene to scene without sufficient information to orient the audience. 

Aldridge, who also directs, is a proven practitioner whose credits include the long-running hit “Louis and Keely Live at the Sahara.” One can feel him straining to master the play’s disparate elements, but it’s an uphill battle on a rolling deck. 

Although obviously patriotic and well-intentioned, the creators of this seminal effort would be better served by less sprawl and more simplicity. 

“Beyond Sight,” Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends May 25. $30. (310) 902-8220. Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes.

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