Flowers for Algernon
Daniel Keyes' now classic sci-fi story about a mentally challenged man whose IQ skyrockets after a surgical procedure tackles not only how we treat disabled individuals but how ephemeral are those intangible values -- love, life, respect -- that we cherish. Directed by Matthew McCray, Deaf West Theatre's signed and spoken production of David Rogers' stage adaptation is a mixed bag, its awkward staging offset by Daniel Durant's charismatic lead performance as Charlie, along with the capable work of several others in the cast. Though never quite persuasive as a towering intellect, Durant's overwhelming likability in every scene compels attention. Especially effective are his lovely interchanges with Hillary Baack, exuding her own unpretentious charm as his teacher and vulnerable love interest. The production's weaknesses have to do with the side-by-side placement of signing and speaking performers, a cluttering visual distraction that detracts from the drama. Also confusing is having some performers sign for one character while taking on the role of another, a choice that emanates from the paring of the original 30-person ensemble to 12. McCray's staging of flashbacks behind a scrim adds resonant texture to the narrative, as do lighting designer Jeremy Pivnick's blue, green and gray changes in the backdrop's hue. Deaf West Theatre at Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Nov. 3. (818) 990-2324, whitefiretheatre.com.
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Starts: Sept. 28. Continues through Nov. 17, 2013
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