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TheatreWorks explores deafness with ‘The Loudest Man on Earth’
July 20, 2013, 05:00 AM By Judy Richter Daily Journal

Mark Kitaoka Haylee (Julie Fitzpatrick) and Jordan (Adrian Blue) share a tender moment in Catherine Rush’s unconventional romantic comedy ‘The Loudest Man on Earth.’

Launching its 44th season, TheatreWorks takes its audience into possibly unfamiliar territory with the world premiere of “The Loudest Man on Earth” by Catherine Rush.

On its surface, this four-person play tells of a budding, unconventional romance between Haylee, a successful writer, and Jordan, a successful director.

Haylee (the excellent Julie Fitzpatrick) is hearing while Jordan is deaf, as is Adrian Blue, the actor who portrays him. Blue, who serves as sign master for the production, is the husband of the playwright, who is hearing.

While the play is not strictly a portrait of their relationship, it does reflect things that have happened to them, Rush says in the program notes.

Haylee has a rudimentary knowledge of American Sign Language when she meets Jordan for the first time and interviews him. As they begin their relationship in New York City, she becomes more adept at understanding him and interpreting for him.

That ability becomes vital when they encounter other people, all well played by Cassidy Brown and Mia Tagano in roles that require versatility and quick changes. These encounters illustrate the gap between hearing and deaf cultures.

Between each scene, Jordan addresses the audience in monologues of ASL and Visual Vernacular, a combination of ASL and mime. Even though Blue is a highly expressive actor, it’s not always easy to understand him without knowing his language.

On the other hand, there’s another scene in which Brown and Tagano play a Czechoslovakian couple whose language is incomprehensible to Haylee. This scene illustrates the stresses and obstacles that arise when people don’t understand one another’s language.

Director Pamela Berlin keeps the action flowing smoothly, aided by the flexible set by Jason Simms. The production also is enhanced by Tanya Finkelstein’s costumes, Paul Toben’s lighting and Cliff Caruthers’ sound.

Running 95 minutes without intermission, “The Loudest Man on Earth” is the latest main stage production to emerge from TheatreWorks’ annual New Works Festival.

This year’s festival features staged readings of two musicals and three plays in rotating repertory from Aug. 10-18 at the Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. That’s where “The Loudest Man on Earth” will continue through Aug. 4. For tickets and information about the play or New Works Festival call 463-1960 or visit www.theatreworks.org.

 

 

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