Highly Recommended They say that “Beauty is skin deep” which loosely translated means that we tend to see what people look like on the outside rather than what is inside. This is pretty much the theme of “The Elephant Man” written by Bernard Pomerance and now being presented at Theater Wit’s stage one by BoHo Theatre. This is a stunning ,well directed (June Eubanks) production ; an intimate setting for an intimate look at seeing a person for who he is instead of what he looks like. John Merrick ( a brilliant performance by Mike Tepeli) is the deformed man who has been taken from the workhouse to a freak show. When Frederick Treves ( deftly handled by Steve O’Connell) sees him, he takes him away from this life in order to study the deformity that has plagued this soul in hopes of curing him or at least learning of the cause. It is important to note that one of the beautiful things about this play is that we do not see the horror that is discussed; that we as theater-goers are allowed to use our imagination ( which is what theater is all about) to see Merrick. Tepeli, however does do the withered leg and weak arm and as we go from scene to scene, we see him do his transformation each time- I must add- to perfection, allowing us to watch the pain and agony of his deformity become real.
As the story progresses, we learn that Merrick is a bright man with artistic talents, a romantic of sorts who only wants what other men want, respect and love. As it turns out, he has become a new sort of freak show in his new life. Royalty and upper crust now come to visit him in his quarters, each bearing gifts. Everyone wants to see this oddity and the Scientists use him to gain prominence and donations to their hospital. Carr Gomm ( a fine portrayal by Michael Kingston, who keeps getting better with every role he takes on) is the man in charge and while he uses Merrick to raise money, along the way, he, as does Treves, starts to have feelings for this man. Mrs Kendall, a noted actress ( played to perfection by the lovely Cameron Feagin, who also plays Nurse Sandwich) is brought on board to make Merrick feel like a man, mos women being frightened by his appearance. As an actress, it is felt that she will not be afraid of what she sees. Instead of acting however, she finds the inner artists and in fact develops feelings for him, as he does for her. We all feel for this man and want him to succeed in having a somewhat normal life. The disease that has plagued him is not curable and as time goes on he succumbs, leaving many in an emotional state. This is a heartwarming story that deals with hope, courage, faith and yes, love. Not just love between a man and woman, but between one person and another and the acceptance of our true selves for who we are instead of what we look like.
BoHo, a small company that continues to give us quality work, has now taken up residency at the new Theater Wit building on Belmont in addition to their smaller studio at The Heartland n Rogers park. This allows them a larger stage and the ability to take on bigger projects. The set by Roger Wykes is one of simplicity , allowing the story and the actors to be the focus for the audience. Jared B. Moore’s lighting and the costumes by Theresa Ham and Sarah Putnam along with the music and sound by Joe Griffin complete the picture. Cassy Schillo’s props and the projections by Jill Vane are the icing on the cake.
For those of you who read me regularly, you know how I feel about the ensemble of the musical productions- without their work, the production is not complete. This is also true of a straight play and this cast works as a team to make this a complete portrait for the eye of the audience. Stephanie Sullivan, Laura Rook, Michael Mercier,Michael Kingston,Jill Connolly,Zach Bloomfield and Thad Anzur take on all the other roles and handle some sound effects and music onstage. 97 minutes ( no intermission) of pure theatrical magic takes place on the stage at Theater Wit through February 6th with performances as follows:
Thursdays,Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.- Sundays at 2 p.m.
Tickets are only $25 and are available by calling the box office at 773-975-8150 or online at www.BoHoTheatre.com
Theater Wit is located at 1229 West Belmont. There is free parking at Coopers ( a fun and affordable restaurant across the street) as well as some street parking, metered and some not.