THE DWARFS and THE BLIND MEN, Mann Productions, at Voltaire. Aside from the title references to physical disabilities, I don’t know what Harold Pinter’s 1960 The Dwarfs and Michel de Ghelderode’s 1933 The Blind Men have to do with each other. But then I haven’t a clue what Pinter is up to in The Dwarfs, one of those early one-acts so elliptical and cryptic it seems any character can say anything so long as it sounds vaguely troubled. I would attempt a synopsis but all I could reliably report would be the characters’ names. And director Mark Mann seems to have no better grip on the play in this impenetrable production.

Mann does make some headway with The Blind Men, a “morality in one act” based upon Pieter Brueghel’s painting The Parable of the Blind Men. Three drunken, sightless pilgrims “walking a road whose end we can’t see and singing a lament whose Latin we don’t understand,” as one character says, wander in circles hoping to reach Rome. The cast offers an encouraging blend of comedy and pathos, but Mann’s fussy, haphazard direction compromises both. Like so many European modernist dramas, this “pictorial anecdote” demands a more exacting visual scenescape than Mann is able to create.

–Justin Hayford