Sep 11, 2018
by Alexa Chipman
In this unique production, Spreckels presents a spectacular example of contemporary drama. Join Christopher on a fascinating journey through his world; terrified of being touched, and unable to comprehend the intricacies of social interaction, the teenager is brilliant with mathematics. It is stable and easy to understand, unlike people who convey messages through body language and speak in strange idioms, like commenting that an action is “a piece of cake” when it does not resemble a baked good at all.
Elijah Pinkham’s performance as Christopher is masterful, with a subtle nervous twitch in his arms, flickering eye contact and wheezing horror when overwhelmed by stimuli. Joined with his analytical mind is an extraordinary capacity for imagination, augmented by projections designer Richard Turtletaub with rotating galaxies mirroring Christopher’s daydreams. Jessica Johnson’s rich soundscape of rumbling London Underground tunnels and blaring announcements helps the audience dive deeper into the constant barrage of sound that Christopher experiences.
Adapted by Simon Stephens from a novel by Mark Haddon, family is at the heart of the complex layering of structures. The mother, Judy (Bronwen Shears), struggles with raising a special needs child. She adores him, but also yearns for a normal life. Beaten down by responsibilities, his father, Ed (David L. Yen), is desperate to reach out to Christopher, and despite a wavering English accent, his performance is heartrending and expressive.
The techno minimalist set is illuminated by harsh teal or soft outdoor sunlight through Eddy Hansen’s lighting design. Rather than furniture, the classic chorus style ensemble becomes refrigerators, doors, electronic ticket booths and closets, complete with sound effects. They step in as incidental characters, with a memorable appearance by John Craven as the Station Policeman drinking a coffee and watching the trains when he notices Christopher in obvious distress and reaches out.
Director Elizabeth Craven juggles the constant shifting scenes and odd narration by Siobahn (Gina Alvarado) that morphs between one of Christopher’s teachers reading aloud to her role as a sort of imaginary friend giving advice. In an abstract format that could easily have gone awry, Craven keeps a focused vision for the production.
The lobby features “A Spectrum of Creativity” with works by Alchemia’s special needs artists. The vivid color and energy flows well with the show’s intensity, and reading their interpretations of why art is meaningful is a moving experience. The whimsical playbill cover art was drawn by Colton Bell of Alchemia.
Do not miss the opportunity to see this extraordinary play, with a riveting story and dedicated ensemble. Spreckels should be proud of this courageous choice to open their season.
Presented by Spreckels Theatre Company through September 30, 2018
Thur at 7:00pm, Fri/Sat at 8:00pm, Sun at 2:00pm
Box Office Hours: Wed. - Sat., noon to 5 p.m., and one hour before show.
Photos by Jeff Thomas
Author Website - http://imaginationlane.net
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