Tuesday, July 17, 2018


by Stephen Sachs
A World Premiere

Based on the 1945 David Lean film Brief Encounter featuring  Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson, Stephen Sachs ventures into not one romance, but three.  The coincidence that Sam (Troy Kotsur) and Emily (Deanne Bray):  Sam being completely deaf and Emily hard of hearing, the term “you don’t listen” takes on a broader context.  Sachs moves us from post war England to present day New York where counter girl Mya (Jessica Jade Andres) plays hard to get with subway security guard, Russell (Shon Fuller).  Russell teases Mya as he attempts to woo her with heavy duty street slang. Foreshadowing of suicide is subtle as Russell recounts saving a 'wall street type' from stepping into the pathway of an arriving subway train. 
Jessica Jade Andres, Shon Fuller,
Stasha Surdyke, Troy Kotsur, Adam Burch,
Brian Robert Burns and Aurelia Myers
Photo by Ed Krieger
Dunkin’ Donuts: DAY:
Enter Emily, who has gotten a fleck of something in her eye. Sam, sits quietly in a corner, he is completely deaf.  Their arrival has begun.

Nicholas E. Santiago’s wonderful projections and helpful supertitles in the form of text messages and projections mostly work.  The deaf and hard of hearing audience is keyed into the spoken dialogue (Stasha Surdyke provides the spoken voice of Emily as well as a crusty turn as Emily’s obnoxious pal Marjorie). Sam’s voice, Adam Burch, is perfect. Excellent acting and strong voice performances are vital.

The challenge of this type of production as we have been taken to school about by Deaf West Theatre, is to at once accommodate three types of audiences: the deaf audience who can read ASL (American Sign Language), the hard of hearing audience who can read the titles and ideally hear and understand the spoken dialogue and, of course, the hearing audience aided by the voices provided when the deaf actors are speaking only with ASL.

Santiago’s projections help with this with the exception of the times when we rely only on the voice actors to interpret the signing characters' dialogue. Often the voice actors are facing upstage or in the dark and for hard of hearing folks, not being able to see the faces of those actors, the challenge of ‘hearing’ and understanding becomes a problem. 
As Sam and Emily fall in love, Emily has the issue of communication with her hardworking and slightly jealous evangelical Christian husband, Doug (Brian Robert Burns).  Doug is a  hearing person having failed his own dream to become an airline pilot after meeting Emily and quickly marrying and having their daughter, Jule (Aurelia Myers). Jule is normal thirteen year old girl filled with teen angst.  Oddly, we don’t see Jule using ASL to communicate with her mother. Frustrated, Emily confronts Doug with his apparent lack of interest in communicating with her in the personal way of signing.

At her husband, Doug’s instance, Emily will be baptized: becoming a true Christian.  She questions her faith and is criticized by Doug for ‘discussions’ that she’s been having with her pastor/mentor who has been prepping her for her baptismal day.  To complicate matters not only is Emily unsure of her plan to commit her life to Christ, but her teenage daughter, Jule, suffers her own weighty personal issues. Jule has 'met' a boy on line and fallen for him. This brings Jule into her own E-romance that has uncomfortable complications.  Meld male chauvinism, teen angst exacerbated by texting, the “brief encounter” of Sam and Emily and a somewhat superfluous “B” story of young love (Russell and Mya) with supertitles, text messages and American Sign Language and here we have Arrival & Departure.  Virtue and doubt. Honesty and love.  When is acknowledgement of a mature attraction a betrayal? To whom must we each be loyal? 

“And, this above all….? “

Having discovered Stephen Sachs with his beautifully mounted Bakersfield Mist a few years ago, I had high expectations for this important play to discuss hearing issues as well as the ideals of commitment and scruples. What does one do when lightning strikes us directly in the heart? Arrival & Departure does not disappoint. It is a kind and insightful story of love.

I highly recommend this production. If you are in the middle of the hearing issue: hard of hearing: not deaf and do not sign, ask for seats close to the front and middle of the house.

Written and directed by Stephen Sachs
The Fountain Theatre
5060 Fountain Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90029
Fridays and Saturdays 8PM
SUN 2pm · MON 8pm
Every Monday Night is Pay What You Want
Tickets and Information:
 (323) 663-1525

No comments:

Post a Comment