This Week in Theater
Written by David Rogers
Review by Rose Desena
Why do we strive for perfection?
I am not a parent, but I think it’s safe to say the one thing everyone wants for their child is to be healthy both emotionally and physically. Painfully, we know some children are not so lucky. Some little darlings are born with inflictions that impair their learning or social skills. Flowers for Algernon, Deaf West’s current production, ventures into this subject with a wonderful twist, some of the actors are hearing impaired.
What if we could perform an operation that would change those who have low IQs or emotional disorders and make them brilliant self-sufficient members of society?
A mentally challenged boy Charlie (Daniel Durant) is sent to a state home by an unsympathetic, stressed mother. Later rescued by an uncle, he is living life as happy as could be expected. Working in the family’s bakery where he is sheltered and decently treated by the staff. However, Charlie wants more; he wants to read and wants so much to be smart. At the suggestion of his aunt, Charlie attends a learning program for those with disabilities and quickly becomes the star pupil. Alice (Hillary Baack), Charlie’s teacher, realizes he is very special and introduces him to Dr. Nemur and Dr. Strauss, two doctors who need a candidate for their experimental surgery. Up until now, they have only experimented with a little mouse called Algernon. The surgery seemed to be a success, the mouse gained exceptional intelligence.
Charlie hears about the surgery and is willing to chance the consequences (yes, there are some) to change his life; he jumps at the chance to get the operation.
Charlie has the surgery, and all went very well; he learns to read write, and studies complicated material as well as different languages. Eventually, he passes the intellectual capabilities of his doctors, friends and those around him. Unfortunately as he grows smarter, his life gets more and more complicated and not for the better.
Daniel N. Durant is fantastic as Charlie and drilled his way into my heart within the first five minutes. He is exceptional as he switches from his retarded personality to a strapping brilliant man. Sean Eaton plays a young Charlie in flashback scenes. He was so adorable I just wanted to hug him. Matthew McCray (Director) does an incredible job directing the two boys, so they really jelled as one.
I couldn’t believe how fluid the staging was. There were several things going on at once, some actors were using sign language and speaking while some were acting and speaking. I just can’t describe what was happening on stage to give it the justice it deserves. Yes, sometimes I am at a loss for words. All I know is it was quite a directional challenge; one McCray definitely pulled off with grace. All the acting was outstanding.
There is so much to this complex, heart tugging story, including love, loss and of course spiritual and life lessons. David Rogers (Writer) will certainly pull on the heart strings of both parents and childless audience members. The message shining so bright, my mind asks if there really is a need for everyone to be perfect and should we accept our limitations, and has science gone too far?
I feel a little guilty that I have not seen other productions from Deaf West. They are the prime, sign language theater group in the US and have won national awards. I was impressed with the level of acting and quality throughout the production, and how comfortable the actors were on stage. Even the little mouse, Cherry Snowdrop, was good.
I must admit the play brought tears to my eyes, and I quickly left the theater bypassing the after party so no one would notice makeup colored tears streaking my face, but I felt great after it, commenting to myself on the way home: Wow, how lucky I am to have experienced such a wonderful piece of work.
There is really nothing more for me to say other than you MUST SEE, “Flowers for Algernon,” even if it’s all you see this year. They need your support so check out the details below and get your tickets ASAP because this will sell out.
As always, I love to get some comments so please share your thoughts.
Written by; David Rogers
Directed by: Matthew McCray
Cast: Hillary Baack, Josh Breslow, Daniel Durant, Sean Eaton, Karla Gutierrez, Charles Katz, Bruce Katzman, Alek Lev, Sarah Lilly, Crystal Lott, Shanna Sorrells, Melanie H. Vansell
Runs: Thursday thru Saturday @ 8pm Sundays @ 2pm, please check web site for details on Talk Back nights and ASL Thursdays
Deaf West Theatre @ the Whitefire Theatre
13500 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA 9142
(818) 762-2998 or www.deafwest.org