Flowers for Algernon , a science fiction short story (1959) and subsequent novel (1966) written by Daniel Keyes, has been translated into numerous movies and plays, but the play, adapted by David Rogers and presented by the Deaf West Theatre at Whitefire Theatre, directed by Matthew McCray, is a unique combination of skills and styles for both hearing and deaf audiences. It brings a new perspective to this modern American classic.
For those who do not know the story, the tale is about an intellectually disabled boy, Charlie Gordon (Daniel Durant) who is the subject of an extraordinary experiment to increase intelligence. His life becomes entangled with that of the mouse, Algernon (Cherry Snowdrop) as they both are studied for the results of this new daring procedure. Voiced by Josh Breslow (as the adult Charlie) and Sean Eaton (as the teen Charlie), Charlie must deal with his blossoming love for Alice (Hillary Baack), his former teacher. In the process his memories of his mother (Sarah Lilly) and sister (Crystal Lott) return to him and he finds that, no longer handicapped, he is forced from his job by his boss (Melanie H. Vansell.) His doctors (Charles Katz, Bruce Katzman and Alek Lev) are at a loss on how to help him with his emotional turmoil as he further identifies with the fate of the mouse.
Also starring in the performance are Shanna Sorrells, and Karla Gutierrez.
Scenic design was done by Sarah Krainin, lighting by Jeremy Pivnick, and costume by Gwyneth Conaway Bennison. The excelllent sound was designed by Joseph "Sloe" Slawinski while Katherine S. Hunt managed the props. Assistant director was Shoshannah Stern and Tricia-Rae Armstrong served as production stage manager. Assistant ASL master was Amber Zion, while Adam Flemming did production design.
While it's long (3 hours), the play is well worth the time if only for the interesting way it is presented. On a scale of 1-10, I would give the play a 9.5.
Deaf West's artistic director, David J. Kurs, who produced the play along with Laura Hill, talks about the combination of the verbal and signage. "Because our intelligence is often masked (by our disability), Charlie's experience is similar, in some ways, to that of the average deaf person."
Despite it being the third week of the run, which due to popularity has been extended to November 17, the audience packed the seats. I was told that many performances, which are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 pm, are already sold out. The theatre is located at 13500 Ventura in Sherman Oaks. Street parking is plentiful, but they also have a valet service a block away, if needed. Tickets are $30 (though students have a discount. For tickets call 818 762 2998 or go to Deaf West Theatre.