Thursday, June 23, 2016

Huntington Theatre Company Presents Craig Lucas' Ambitious New Play "I Was Most Alive With You" - Through June 26th

This is the theater season of inclusion.  We saw it in spades at the Tony Awards - the top four awards for acting in a musical went to actors of color. During the Tony broadcast, we saw a performance by the cast of "Spring Awakening" featuring actors communicating in ASL, as well as an actor singing from her wheelchair. In keeping with that spirit, the Huntington Theatre Company has mounted an ambitious production of Craig Lucas' new play "I Was Most Alive With You." Mr. Lucas also directs this production of his play.

The dilemma of a gay and deaf young man struggling to come to grips with life's many levels of challenge is certainly a topic worthy of our consideration. I applaud the deaf actor, Russell Harvard, for his heart felt portrayal of Knox. I applaud the playwright for being willing to tackle such a complex and timely series of topics.  And I applaud the Huntington for including this play in its current season.

Despite the many praiseworthy aspects of this play, I found this production a bit overly ambitious. There were simply too many story lines and social issues thrown at me for me to care about all of them. There is bullying, gay identity struggles, suicide, alcoholism, drug addiction, abuse, intergenerational friction, the complexities of sub-genres of the deaf community, religious differences, and family skeletons being exposed. Underlying much of the interaction was the lingering debate within the deaf community regarding lip reading, cochlear implants and ASL as communication tools. To further complicate matters, parts were played simultaneously by speaking actors and shadow actors communicating in ASL.  It slowed down the rhythm of the dialogue to the point where much of the spoken interaction felt stilted. I have no problem with the concept of deaf actors and speaking actors sharing the stage.  It worked beautifully in "Spring Awakening" and in "Tribes." It works less well in this production.

Despite my quibbles as noted above, this is an important play, featuring a hard working and talented cast and creative team.  In addition to the impressive Mr. Harvard, the cast includes:
  • Marianna Bassham as Astrid
  • Steven Goldstein as Ash
  • Dee Nelson as the inaptly named Pleasant
  • Tad Cooley as Farhad
  • Nancy E. Carroll as Carla
  • Gameela Wright as Mariama
The Shadow ASL Interpreters are:
  • Joey Caverly as Ash
  • Amelia Hensley as Pleasant and Mariama
  • Monique Holt as Astrid and Carla
  • Christopher Robinson as Farhad and Knox
"I Was Most Alive With You"
by Craig Lucas
Huntington Theatre Company
Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA
Through June 26th

As is always the case with any Huntington production, the scenic design by Dane Laffrey is beautiful and effective, allowing the space to be used to host a huge Thanksgiving dinner at the grandmother's home, as well as more intimate gatherings. The set includes a bathroom with a working bath tub.  Lighting by Mark Barton often served to signal the mood of a particular moment in the action of the play, as did the original music and sound design by Daniel Kluger.

The play runs through this weekend, June 26th at the Calderwood Pavilion at Boston Center for the Arts.

Huntington Theatre Website



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