BWW Reviews: TRIBES Delivers a Unique Experience at Everyman Theatre
"This hysterical and touching coming-of-age story is about a young deaf man and his struggle for self-identity and what it truly means to be understood," explains the theater's press release on the production and Baltimore premiere of Nina Raine's Tribes at Everyman Theatre.
Everyone is struggling daily to be understood in their lives, so I thought this production at Everyman would leave me dampened and worn out at the end, driving home in my own cocoon of silence and general weariness.
What was I thinking? This is Everyman Theatre whose self-prescribed mission is to create a shared experience between actor and audience. And here's what I would recommend after seeing this production of Tribes: Go. See. It. Every now and then you come across a true theater experience, and Tribes at Everyman is one of them.
First, the staging for this production finally allowed me to see the potential for the new space on 315 W. Fayette Street. I'll be honest; my first time in their new home I mourned the loss of the intimacy of their former space. I loved the tight, cramped quarters of their long-time home and enjoyed the experience of being on stage, sometimes literally, with the actors. It was a tight, cozy little band of actors and audience. But entering the theater for Tribes, I was struck by the depth of the stage setting, its intricacies, and the feeling it created by itself before the actors even arrived. The play started immediately for me when I saw the setting and began deciphering all that it held.
Second, things I thought couldn't work actually worked beautifully. There were large electronic displays on stage surrounding the setting and when I saw these full-sized sign systems, I thought, "Oh no. This is going to be so distracting." It's not. The seamless blending in and out of the deaf world was stunning. You felt the isolation of the non-hearing world and jumped at the sudden onslaught of sound. You watched non-deaf characters engage each other in and around Billy, the young deaf man and lead actor played by John McGinty who is a deaf man, and you saw his detachment from his family and his sad existence in a group that failed to entangle him in day to day life.
Third, the play's language is so fresh and animated. When Billy's father, played by James Whalen, shouts out at the very opening of the show, "Why am I surrounded by my children? When are you going to all fuck off", you know you're in for a lively time.
The one distraction was the British accents that the actors sported. It made it hard to follow the fast moving dialogue at times. Here's what I'd advise - get the hand-held iPod Touch available at every performance now. Everyman has invested in this technology out of concern for aging patrons. I'm not old, but I would not hesitate in future productions to get the device that has a closed caption application on it. (Well, I am a little bit old, but not cane carrying old. Just get the hand held.) It attaches to the seat and let's you enjoy the production with a back up reference point.
Tribes runs through June 22. Order tickets through www.everymantheatre.org. Parking is right across the street from the theater and pre-show dining is available with bistro style seating inside the theater.