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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Monday, April 24, 2017

Theater Review - The Elephant Man

The Elephant Man
Directed by Sanford Robbins
Written by Bernard Pomerance
Where: Thompson Theatre at the Roselle Center for the Arts
(University of Delaware, Newark, DE)
When: Sunday, March 19, 2pm

Super-quick thoughts on this production to save for posterity since it closed so long ago:

  • The Elephant Man was my most anticipated play of the season -- a piece that I'd wanted to see for years.  My expectations were perhaps a bit too high as the the playwright's short, truncated scenes led to a little less emotional connection than I had hoped given the play's subject matter which deals with John Merrick, a man coping with severe physical deformities in mid-1800s London.
  • Director Sanford Robbins utilizes giant supertitles spanning across a large arch to introduce each scene.  I've done a little bit of research to see that this has been done in many productions before, but I haven't discovered whether it's something specified in the play itself or not.  While I initially found the technique oddly engaging, it grew a bit tiresome and ended up working against the one-act 100-minute play as I found myself searching for the meaning of the supertitle within the scene itself -- "Oh, that's why this scene is called x or y."
  • Beyond the supertitles, Robbins successfully stages the play keeping things briskly moving and getting some very good performances from Michael Gotch as Merrick and Elizabeth Heflin who, in her largest role in this production, is Ms. Kendall, an actress brought in to give Merrick a "taste" of feminine interaction.  In the play's most touching moment, Kendall begins to realize that she's not "acting" when she kisses the unfortunate man's hand not out of any sort of duty, but out of an emotional connection...but it's an emotional connection that both parties know can never actually exist.
  • The scenic/lighting design was gorgeous in its simplicity -- see the picture above -- with a circle of lights being mirrored in the floor.  Stark, but beautiful.
  • In the end, The Elephant Man is a solid production, but like many of the REP's plays this season, it doesn't rouse excitement.  Decent, but the season just didn't quite click.  One more to go...

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