at Pasadena

at Pasadena Playhouse

Pasadena Playhouse has been instrumental in the development of Stephen Sachs' quietly momentous new play in collaboration with Deaf West Theatre. The result is a theatrical and cultural milestone. Performed, as so many Deaf West presentations have been since its inception in 1991, by speaking actors voicing the roles while their deaf counterparts simultaneously sign the dialogue, this project is something more, created specifically for deaf actors about deaf characters, rather than an American Sign Language version of an already established "hearing" play.

The first thing to praise is Sachs' intricately constructed script, which, beyond all its machinations to tell the story to both hearing and deaf audiences, is at its heart monumentally human, jarringly intimate, and written without concern for any remote vestige of political correctness. As two strong-willed deaf professionals—one a stiff-backed cognitive scientist, the other a recently graduated Valley girl–like psychologist—are assigned to a bleak state mental facility to attempt communication with a horribly abused 20-year-old who killed his father with the chains that held him captive in a basement for 12 years, they learn a few lessons. The pair is desperate to make the feral Cal (Chris B. Corrigan, in one of the year's most extraordinary performances) learn rudimentary communicative skills before he must face a court hearing at which he could possibly be charged with murder.

The magnificent Linda Bove gives new meaning to the term transcendence as the troubled older woman whose recent personal tragedy makes her methodology more stern and unforgiving than understanding, while Shoshannah Stern as her young colleague, who believes a breakthrough must begin with human touch and kindness, offers a fine complement as the two professionals slowly begin to forge a remarkable common bond that might eventually heal a lot more than Cal. Eric Simonson directs with surprising grace and ease, continually bringing the speaking actors (Jacqueline Schultz, Kyle Colerider-Krugh, and Erin Bennett) down from their watchers perch above the stage to mingle with their deaf counterparts. This is more than a unique theatrical experience: Sachs has created, in collaboration with this exceptional team of committed participants, something that could renew the human spirit.

Presented by Deaf West Theatre in association with and at Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena. Tue.-Fri. 8 p.m., Sat. 5 & 9 p.m., Sun. 2 & 7 p.m. (Also Wed. 10:30 a.m. Nov. 2; 2 p.m. Nov. 9.) Oct. 21-Nov. 20. (626) 356-7529.

Reviewed by Travis Michael Holder