Based on the true story of John Merrick, “The Elephant Man” at the Luna Playhouse transforms a tiny, intimate production into a show with huge theatrical appeal. Right from the opening scene, where two men sweep up after a sideshow circus performance-, to the next scene, where Dr. Frederick Treves (played by Brendan Shanahan) encounters Merrick (R. Christofer Sands), and invites him to be his “subject,” one learns the rule of Theater 101: “There are no small roles, only small actors.” From lowly sweeper to esteemed research doctor, from carnival pinhead to elegant countess, each actor runs the gamut, each an intrinsic part of the bigger picture. When the same actors play multiple roles, the audience immediately recognizes the depth of character development and creative teamwork involved.
R. Christofer Sands brings a tenderness and sensitivity to his role as Merrick, truly capturing both physical agony and mental anguish. He remarkably assumes the posture of his Job-ian character that was dealt a most treacherous blow of fate imaginable. Author Bernard Pomerance notes the choice of no shocking makeup or effects: “Any attempt to reproduce Merrick’s appearance or speech naturalistically would seem not only counterproductive, but distracting from the play.” Sands precisely conveys the physical deformity and grotesque features through voice and body language- rather than with extreme makeup.
The show’s haunting, exquisite score and original music by Brian Sherick not only enhances but carries the emotional energy. It has so much potential that a chamber operetta of The Elephant Man could well be on the musical horizon.
Friday & Saturday at 8 PM through April 10th, and Sunday shows on March 28 & April 11th at 2:30 PM. Located at 3706 San Fernando Rd., Glendale, CA 91204. To reserve tickets, call 818-500-7200 or visit www.itsmyseat.com