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Review: THE ELEPHANT MAN at The Belmont Theatre

Review: THE ELEPHANT MAN at The Belmont Theatre

A powerful play at the Belmont.

Currently on Belmont Theater's stage is a challenging, yet rewarding production of The Elephant Man. The play, like the film, concerns nineteenth-century, London doctor, Fredrick Treves and his attempts to bring dignity and normalcy to the severely disfigured, John Merrick.

Daryl Perkins Jr. stars in the title role.. It may be Perkins' first time on the Belmont stage, but I guarantee it won't be his last. Merrick is a very difficult role, both physically and emotionally. Perkins was up to the challenge. His crooked posture, twisted expressions, and unbalanced gait were very believable and looked downright painful. My wife, a chiropractor and theatre buddy, was especially sympathetic.

Perkins also had the emotional chops to pull off the role. While Merrick requires substantial sympathy from the audience, there are also moments that garner humor and recognition. Perkins takes us along on that journey.

Whether done coincidentally or deliberately, I would be remiss if I did not mention the powerful subliminal bias associated with casting an actor that looks different, racially, than the rest of the cast. The show's themes of isolation, intolerance, and rejection are greatly magnified when examined through a racial lens.

Connor Kanya plays the compassionate Dr. Frederick Treves. I thought Kanya had good rapport with Perkins, and definitely looks the part of a dignified British surgeon. I would have appreciated greater variety in his interactions with some characters, especially when called upon to convey outrage or genteel stuffiness.

Kelly Warren lights up the stage as Mrs Kendal, the worldly actress who befriends Merrick and fosters his humanity in ways that Treves is unable or unwilling to do. Warren does a fine job with the characters' elegant, yet honest persona.

The remainder of the cast does a very effective job of playing the various doctors, freaks, criminals, and members of high society that Merrick encounters during his brief life. One slight universal criticism is the choice to subdue or omit appropriate British accents. This would have been a nice additional nod of cast authenticity.

Director, Jack Hartman keeps the pace moving. The show is cut up into twenty or so, bite sized scenes. The free-flowing set was interesting and appropriate. I admired the cobblestone floor and the brick backdrop. A digital projector was used to announce the title of each scene as well as show us photographs of the historical Elephant Man. This was a nice touch.

The Elephant Man plays now through August 14. It is a touching play that questions what normal is, and whether it is something to strive for. Buy a ticket and find out.

From This Author - Rich Mehrenberg

Rich Mehrenberg was introduced to the magic of theater when he played "The Boy" in his first grade class production of "The Giving Tree". It has been a long term love affair eve... (read more about this author)

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