Tuesday, September 24, 2019

The Solid Life of Sugar Water

Deaf West Theatre Company holds forth in an amazing little space secreted away just south of the Arts District and east of DTLA. It's an oasis for art! 
As the audience enters the space I noted that the room was surprisingly quiet.  Then, could see hands a flutter with many of the audience using American Sign Language to communicate.. It's Deaf West, after all.  In a way the silence was calming and quite charming.
Sandra Mae Frank and Tad Cooley
Photo by Brandon Simmoneau
The American premiere of Jack Thorne's The Solid Life of Sugar Water opens on Sean Fanning's gorgeous set that seems to suspend the audience from the ceiling of the bedroom .. the love nest.. the battlefield.. of Phil and Alice (Tad Cooley and Sandra Mae Frank).  Phil and Alice use ASL to graphically depict their most intimate moments. On hand are Nick Apostolina  and Natalie Camunas who provide the characters' voices, interpreting the signs used by Phil and Alice. The marriage bed "stands" in the center of the room which has been cranked ninety degrees to allow us to see the actors 'lying' in bed.  Derrick McDaniel's specific lighting and Heather Fipps's projections allow us to experience the actors 'lying in bed' while they are actually presenting to the audience.  It's a device that works well and adds to the texture of director Randee Trabitz's  beautiful stage pictures. 

Thorne discusses the issues of deep love accompanied by deep loss through leaping forward and back in time, as well as breaking the fourth wall for the characters to reveal inner thoughts. We go back to see how the couple met.. at the post office while standing in line to mail parcels.  Phil's huge package (no pun)  that contained, among other goodies an inflatable sheep intended for someone to .. well...  to cavort with, to coin a phrase is wrestled with graphically.  Phil and Alice,  at this juncture never really having met, Alice wonders why Phil, seeing that her parcel is so much smaller than his huge package (no pun) might not have allowed her to go ahead of him in the queue.  As luck would have it, the inflatable sheep explodes and Phil's huge package (no pun) .. bursts all of it's contents about the post office! The lovers meet.

The obvious relevance of sex permeates the play with graphic descriptions and physicality. The couple's relationship through a short courtship and marriage and pregnancy brings complications to light.  Explicit sex is presented beautifully as we share the dance of the actors signing smoothly and deliberately with obvious enjoyment.

This is an all together professional production that shows why Deaf West Theatre has garnered accolades for the past many years.  Big River and Spring Awakening, past hits that made news in the Big Apple may be followed by this show that has every aspect of a Broadway production. Graphic sex and explicit language steer this production to an adult audience.

The Solid Life of Sugar Water
by Jack Thorne
Deaf West Theatre 
at The Rosenthal Theatre
Inner-City Arts
720 Kohler Street
Los Angeles, CA 90021
(in downtown LA, just south of Little Tokyo and the Arts District)
Thursdays at 8 p.m.: Sept. 5 (preview), 12 (opening), 19*, 26*; Oct. 3, 10
Fridays at 8 p.m.: Sept. 6 (preview), 13, 20, 27; Oct. 4, 11
Saturdays at 8 p.m.: Sept. 7 (preview), 14, 21, 28; Oct. 5, 12
Sundays at 3 p.m: Sept. 8 (preview), 15, 22, 29; Oct. 6, 13
*ASL Nights on Thursday, Sept. 19 and Thursday, Sept. 26: arrive at 7:30 p.m. for a 15-minute ASL workshop that teaches signs used in the play.

For reservations and information, call (818) 762-2998 (voice) or go to

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