Thursday, February 4, 2010
Director Bridget Farias and the EmilyAnn Theatre crew in Wimberley are running The Elephant Man Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays for four weekends in January and February, an intrepid undertaking for a community-based arts group in a town with a population of only about 4,000.
More impressive than their raw courage in taking on a tough script and slow-motion tragedy is the fact that they carry it out with grace and depth. The company creates a protected time and space in which we can muse about arbitrary fate, human connection and our responsibility for one another.
Audiences may be familiar with the story, based on historical fact as recorded by Dr. Frederick Treves, the physician who took in the disfigured young Joseph Carey Merrick. Writing many years after the events, Treves recalled his patient as "John Merrick," the name used by Bernard Pomerance for the Tony-nominated play in 1979. David Lynch made the movie in 1980 with Anthony Hopkins as Treves, John Hurt as Merrick, John Gielgud as chief physician Carr Gomm and Ann Bancroft as the actress Madge Kendal.
I haven't seen that version, though, and I encourage you simply to ignore it. Farias has assembled a capable and convincing cast for this quiet morality play, and they make the story their own.
Carl Galante as Treves and Patrick Byers as Merrick establish the key link and relationship in the story. Galante, playing the physician and man of science, is a protector and ultimately a father figure of conflicted emotions. Byers as the patiently suffering, attentive and sweet-tempered Merrick becomes a mirror to his visitors, once they learn to look past his disfigurement.
Read more and view images at AustinLiveTheatre.com . . . .