A disheveled man wakes from a sweat-drenching nightmare, furiously shaking his shirt and pants free of possible small jungle creatures, and hastily dresses to face the utterly dreamlike reality of remote Mexico, a torpid limbo. Henry is a lost soul from the American middle-class, middle aged and unmoored, a superfluous stranger to a wife he left hundreds of scattered miles away in snowbound Michigan, and now alone in a squalid, vine-shrouded "hotel" amid snakes, lizards and ghosts. The owner of the makeshift inn, one-eyed Viejo, warns him to stay put for his own safety, but on a brief, circular walk through the underbrush he is set upon by a peasant named Amado. The predatory figure bears a machete and a slender knife which he will use to cut the eyes from Henry's head, he tells the incredulous American, in order to present this penitent, macabre offering of "a bouquet of blue eyes" to the bewitching Consuela. The fervor of Amado's obsessed mission, his dizzying persuasiveness, and his menacing wit and insight, push Henry's sanity to its limits. In a duel of ironic pathos, humor, cruelty and metaphor, each man examines what has taken him from the woman he loves and what desperate sacrificial price might reunite him with her. At the point when the gracefully haunting Consuela appears before Henry only to dismiss his brown eyes, the sole road out of the tangled tropical forest seems indistinct but at last possible.

Performance History

Two-act play. First production was staged at the Manhattan Theatre Club, City Center Stage II, NY on February 10, 1998. Directed by Terry Kinney. Based on the story, "The Blue Bouquet" by Octavio Paz.

Reviews for 1998 Production

Ben Brantley, NY Times:
Inspired by a short story by Octavio Paz, the Mexican Nobel laureate, ''Eyes for Consuela'' would appear to have the right formula for a wild Shepard adrenaline pumper: a tropical jungle; a bottle of tequila; two desperate, angry men, and a dancing ghost. But the production, directed by Terry Kinney of the Steppenwolf Theater Company, never generates much sense of urgency. Nor, despite its otherworldly elements, does it ever transport you into the surreal limbo land of Mr. Shepard's best works, where the everyday bleeds at the edges. ''Eyes'' is unusually clear and even literal-minded by Mr. Shepard's standards. It is also unusually torpid, even with a first-rate actor like David Strathairn working overtime to bring it to life...

Mr. Shepard has visited Mexico before in his plays. Most notably there was ''La Turista,'' his 1966 work about a younger American who loses his identity in a foreign hotel room. A stew of metaphoric images that defy hard interpretation, it is much messier than ''Eyes for Consuela.'' But it has a vitality that ''Eyes'' does not. And its loopiness allows it to get away with comparisons between cultural sensibilities that in this later work feel weary.

The good news is that Mr. Shepard appears at least slightly more optimistic about relationships between the sexes, something he once described as ''terrible and impossible.'' There's a humble spirit of forgiveness and an openness to emotional change at work in ''Eyes'' that may lead this playwright, one of America's best, into new, fertile territory. Mr. Shepard has not arrived there, however. One leaves ''Eyes'' thinking, more than anything else, that his plays are most beautiful when they're angry.

Vincent Canby, NY Times:
''Eyes for Consuela,'' is a long, poetic, metaphor-engorged two-act work that plays as if it were an early draft for a short, poetic, metaphor-enriched one-act work. The suspicion is that it's something that might only be fixed by starting over. From scratch. That is, by rewriting from beginning to end without looking up any pearls that might be embedded in the mire of the present script. If there are such pearls, they will resurface in the memory of their own accord.

Inspired by ''The Blue Bouquet,'' a brief, perfectly coherent literary fragment by Octavio Paz, ''Eyes for Consuela'' is a goofy though not funny meditation on a number of random subjects: marriage, Yankee imperialism, the macho male, the inability to love and those of us who have eyes but see not...

''Eyes for Consuela'' dimly recalls the sort of surreal, off-the-top-of-his-head one-acts that Mr. Shepard turned out in the 1960's, though it's about 95 minutes too long, the writing painfully self-conscious and the result less exuberant than a walk through the East Village at 2 A.M. Nowhere evident are the discipline, maturity and insight of the artist who later went on to write ''Buried Child,'' ''True West,'' ''Fool for Love'' and ''Simpatico.''

John Heilpern, New York Observer:
This is such a slack little play from the author of "True West", "Fool for Love" and "Buried Child" that one wonders what’s got into him... Mr. Shepard has written a pseudomysterious play, obviously. His message, such as it is, is a gigantic cliché about Latin poetic soulfulness versus neurotic earthbound America. But "Eyes for Consuela" itself is dispiritingly earthbound, and Mr. Shepard’s notion of magic realism is merely neurotic.

Fintan O'Toole, NY Daily News:
As so often in Shepard's brilliant 35-year mostly Off-Broadway career, reality and fantasy, the mythic and the mundane, seep into each other. The feel of the play can be imagined from the short cryptic story by the Mexican writer Octavio Paz that Shepard uses as his springboard. In it, a Mexican bandit kidnaps an American traveller and demands that he give him his blue eyes. The American points out that his eyes are brown, and is saved. "Eyes for Consuela" uses the story essentially as a starting point. It goes on to reveal the story behind the event. But instead of explaining an enigma, Shepard deepens the mystery. He takes us into a feverish sweat-soaked atmosphere where the borders between past and present, the physical and the imagined, dissolve. In lesser hands, the play could easily be a ridiculous collision of cliches. It follows the familiar pattern of a rich, jaded U... The action is made to move with the dreamy, enraptured serenity of an ancient tale re-told. With such delicate telling, this very tall story is utterly enthralling.

Photos - 1998 Production