It's hard not to gush about Deaf West. As time goes by, this excellent company of dedicated Theatre Artists has produced award winning Theatre. My first experience was years ago at their tiny space on Lankershim where new light was shed on A Streetcar Named Desire.
Partnered in this production of Thornton Wilder's Our Town with the Pasadena Playhouse, we have a taste of basic storytelling that slowly unfolds: a beautiful tapestry of memories.
|Deric Augustine and Sandra Mae Frank Photo by Jenny Graham|
Celebrating its centennial this year, The Pasadena Playhouse launches into new leadership with the arrival of Danny Feldman as the Producing Artistic Director. The notion of bringing the comfort of 'H ome' to the community is a very good idea. The beauty of Wilder's play is that like the comfort food of toasted cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, it simply reaffirms that love and family and community matter. The charm of signing actors, some of whom speak as well as sign and some who are interpreted by another actor speaking just out of the scene is engaging.
Outstanding in the cast, along with Jane Kaczmarak as the Stage Manager we meet The Webbs (Russell Harvard as Mr., Annika Marks as Mrs. and Sandra Mae Frank as Emily) and The Gibbs (Jud Williford as Dr., Alexandria Wailes as Mrs. and Deric Augustine as George) carry the arc of the story. Outstanding as the local milkman, Harold Foxx and his cow season the play perfectly. A faded red straight backed wooden chair is featured as the basic logo for the production. The entire ensemble of eighteen dedicated actors each have some version of a simple chair that reminds us that this is not a complicated story. Youth, Marriage and ... of course, Death. Act III, is the most touching as we participate in the funeral of Emily, who has married her childhood love, George and now joins friends and family in the local cemetery. Sheryl Kaller's staging has no real surprises: appropriate for this simple show.
David Myer's beautifully straight forward set with a backdrop that reminds us of the one hundred year history of The Playhouse gets a couple of ropes and some ladders for those who feel the need for scenery. Perfect. Jared A. Sayeg's lighting design compliment the production.
I don't know if there are regional accents in American Sign Language, but slight indications of 'down east' by the speaking actors works just fine.
Ms Kaczmarak, continues a trend to cast the Stage Manager as a woman and I'm sure that the playwright would heartily approve. Her laconic approach, through the fourth wall, as Wilder directed, we meet the town of Grover's Corners and the residents who intermingle in three acts.
Deaf West's presentation of Our Town is a beautiful tribute to this American Classic. Especially today, October 3, 2017, it's time to remember the basics: Family, Love, Friendship. Seeing the Opening Night Show with more than half of the audience in conversations: signing pre-show in the courtyard and inside over the aisles to greet one another lent a quiet and even respectful air. I was fortunate to 'chat' with a deaf friend of one of the actors in the ensemble who taught me ASL for 'far out!'
Return to our American roots and do not miss Our Town.
OUR TOWN by Thornton Wilder
Directed by Sheryl Kaller
The Pasadena Playhouse
39 S El Molino Ave.
Pasadena, California 91101
Continues through Sunday, October 22, 2017, Tuesday – Friday evenings at 8:00 p.m.;
Saturday at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
Sunday at 2:00
No Sunday, October 1 matinee performance;
No Tuesday evening performances on October 3 and 17
No performance on Wednesday evening
Sunday, October 22 at 7:00 p.m.