Someone Dark Has Found Me
Theater
Review
"The Loudest Man on Earth"

By: Catherine Rush
Produced by: theatreworks.org
Featuring: Adrian Blue, Julie Fitzpatrick, Cassidy Brown and Mia Tagano
Directed by: Pamela Berlin
When: Previews July 10-12, opens July 13, runs through August 4, 2013
Where: Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, California.
Tickets: $19-$73. (Discounts available.) Call 650-463-1960 or visit theatreworks.org
To help TheatreWorks raise some money to finish their new office and rehearsal facility, visit a page created by TheatreWorks Executive Director Phil Santora. Leaf through the photos to catch one of Santora and Artistic Director Robert Kelley painting a wall. That's gotta be worth at least ten bucks. visit theatreworks.fundly.com/phil-santora-home-is-where-the-art-is.

Playwright Catherine Rush and actor Adrian Blue were interviewed by John Orr about "The Loudest Man on Earth. Read the story, here in Triviana.

Actors Mia Tagano and Cassidy Brown were interviewed by Paul Freeman about their 21 roles in "The Loudest Man on Earth." Read the interview in The Daily News.

Read Robert Hurwitt's review at SFGate.com.

The Loudest Man on Earth
Tracy Martin / TheatreWorks
She is his queen: Adrian Blue, left, and Julie Fitzpatrick in "The Loudest Man on Earth," at TheatreWorks, July 10 through August 4, 2013.
A remarkable play
about love and communication
Catherine Rush's 'The Loudest Man on Earth'
is a thing of beauty in its world premiere at TheatreWorks
July 14, 2013

"The Loudest Man on Earth" begins with a short prologue in mime.

Adrian Blue, as Jordan, enters, looks at the audience, does a couple of jumping jacks, then checks his heart. He's fine. He checks his eyes. They're fine.

Checks his crotch. Fine.

Checks his ears. Nothing. He's deaf. He shrugs, happy with who he is, and walks off stage.

Already, with no dialogue, the audience has gotten a couple of good laughs and learned a couple of important things about Jordan Weiss, theater director.

A smart opening to what turns out to be a remarkable play about communication and love, and how those two processes need each other to survive. It's a play, by Blue's wife, Catherine Rush, that is wonderful to read, but significantly, brilliantly better to see if performed, especially with a enormously talented cast of Blue, Julie Fitzpatrick, Cassidy Brown and Mia Tagano, as directed by Pamela Berlin.

The first regular scene is full of humor and conflict, opening with Brown (in one of ten roles he carries), as an actor in rehearsal, doing something so inexplicable we'll leave it for you to see it when you go.

When he stops, with a woman's voice blasting directions to him over the P.A., Fitzpatrick enters, as Haylee Masters, a magazine journalist who's been waiting to interview Jordan. She is told to get off the stage. She refuses. The voice -- who is speaking for Jordan, we learn -- argues with her. She stands her ground. She has an appointment. She has been waiting.

And finally we officially meet Jordan, the cranky, demanding director, who comes down to the stage during the meal break. At first he's not helpful. She tries signing, with her limited American Sign Language and letter-spelling skills, including giving her name. He says, "That just wasted five minutes. You have five minutes left."

She says she's waiting for the interpreter. No interpreter, he says. She says she doesn't just want to use the magazine quote about him -- that he's a stubborn loner.

"No. Not good enough," she says. ... Who is Jordan Weiss? Who is the man creating work that is... brilliant and, and and and funny and moving. I want to write about that person."

"He isn't available," Jordan signs.

She stands to leave. "That was easy," he says.

"Maybe for you," she signs and speaks. "Nothing about this has been easy for me. I waited weeks to get here and when I finally do I wait another hour backstage just, just, just to be...ignored, left in the dark (sign: cover eyes with hands) and sworn (sign: gives the finger) at. Then in the interview (sign: here), I am treated with patronizing disdain."

But then, after a bit more fuss, he apologizes, and they start learning about each other. And a romance begins.

Blue is funny and smart as Jordan, who becomes very charming with Haylee. And Fitzpatrick is bottled wonderfulness as Haylee, who can be sweet and overwhelmingly appealing, but who is always smart and always stands her ground.

Along the way, we get a good look at the difficulties faced everyday by deaf people. The waiter who speaks to Jordan from behind, not knowing Jordan can't hear him. The yuppie moron who asks Jordan if he's related to Ko-Ko the gorilla, who learned some sign language. The shopkeepers and European theater producers who speak in strong accents, frustrating Jordan's limited ability to read lips.

Brown and Mia Tagano, who between them play 21 parts, are amazing. There are often only seconds between character changes for them, and yet when each new character emerges, they are there, whole cloth. There were times I completely forgot it was only the two of them. "Who the hell is this?" I wondered, as a pushy, loud, former girlfriend of Jordan's pops up. It was Tagano.

A favorite of their transformations: When they emerge, at first in partial silhouette, as Jordan's parents, frail, old, and bent with age. Very impressive.

Also impressive are Tanya Finkelstein's costumes. For Adrian Blue, no big deal. Most of the time, he's in a blue shirt and slacks. Here and there, a sports jacket. Julie Fitzpatrick brings beauty to everything she wears. But for Cassidy Brown and Mia Tagano and their 21 characters, ranging from New York cops to foreign-accented trauma surgeon to a Japanese waitress to a French milliner to a yuppie couple to an old New York couple and more, the costumes and wigs not only have to fit the characters, they have to be made to peel off and put on in an instant. Finkelstein's work is fabulous.

Director Pamela Berlin brought a beauty of blocking and movement to the entire production, helped in the process by Jason Simms' spare, angled set and Paul Toben's lighting design. The choreography of the set changes were delightful to watch, bathed in gentle shadows.

The transitions from scene to scene were elegantly achieved, sometimes leading to soliloquys by Jordan.

I'd read the script before, and liked these bits, when Jordan writes a love letter to Haylee, then puts it away without showing it to her. I'd guessed that maybe his letters would be projected on a screen on stage.

Wrong. Each letter is delivered in mime -- by Blue, whose performance career began 40 years ago as a street mime in San Francisco -- and each of these beautiful soliloquys demands our attention, and each rewards our attention with a bit of understanding. Very impressive.

The key story of the need to communicate is that of Jordan and Haylee. Every couple needs to learn to communicate, of course, but his being deaf adds an extra dimension to that struggle. He has darkness in his past he does not want to communicate, but she wants to know. He is sure the she is not always translating what he is actually saying.

These issues lead to the ultimate conflict for them.

How it all plays out is another incidence of beauty in this remarkable play.

The Loudest Man on Earth
Tracy Martin / TheatreWorks
Cassidy Brown as Haylee's Dad, Julie Fitzpatrick as Haylee, Adrian Blue as Jordan Weiss (describing a puffer fish) and Mia Tagano as Grandmother Masters, from left, in "The Loudest Man on Earth." The touching romantic comedy/drama opened in previews on July 10, and is to run though August 4, 2013.

The Loudest Man on Earth
Tracy Martin / TheatreWorks
Problem: Jordan is deaf and can't really talk. The waiter can't see well enough to read the menu. The waitress doesn't speak English well enough to communicate. Haylee just wants to watch and be amused. So Jordan acts out the menu item he wants: Milk soup with oyster and floating quail's egg. From left are Adrian Blue, Cassidy Brown, Mia Tagano and Julie Fitzpatrick, in "The Loudest Man on Earth," at TheatreWorks in Palo Alto, July 10-August 4, 2013.


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