The Elephant Man at LA’s St. Johns Cathedral
Something I love most about the theatre is anywhere can be fair game to create a beautiful, moving production. After seeing The Elephant Man last night, it seems completely fitting that it took place inside the gorgeous LA landmark, St. Johns Episcopal Cathedral.
Currently playing in the heart of Downtown LA, in this very un-common & majestic setting, Director Patricia McKee has brought Bernard Pomerance’s 1977 haunting & disturbing classic play, The Elephant Man, to life for 8 intimate performances.
Set in the late 1800’s, the play tells the story of side-show ‘freak’, John Merrick, who was born with a horribly deformed face after his Mother supposedly got stepped on by an elephant at the circus while pregnant. When an up & coming, gifted Surgeon, Frederick Treves, learns of Merrick, he decides to take him in after the show is forced to close.
Treves soon learns that The Elephant Man might not be as limited as everyone thinks; it certainly raises the question that why is one assumed to be dumb & helpless just because of their appearance?
His intelligence is exposed more when Treves hires Mrs. Kendall, an actress whom the Doctor feels can work with Merrick as both a Nurse & confidant. Merricks explanation to Kendall of Romeo & Juliet, analyzing both the lack of love & use of illusion to the death scene, is a highlight monologue to the play. Watching Mrs. Kendall, played perfectly by Maria Olsen, grow such affection & perhaps romantic feelings towards this ‘freak’ man, shows that true love is not what is on the outside.
Mark McClain, playing the title role, is no stranger to prestigious LA theatre, having worked at South Coast Rep, The Boston Court & The Geffen Playhouse. McClain is heartbreaking & delicate as Merrick, leaving his deformed face to our imagination but acting out each movement as if he looks as gruesome as he is said to.
William Kidd as Treves also gives a complex performance that reaches a profound climax by one of his final scenes. Kidd, who began acting as simply a hobby, is so gifted as he completely becomes the surgeon & the audience can feel his pain & concern for Merrick’s well-being.
The Elephant Man plays Thursday through Saturday through February 8th inside The St. Johns Cathedral at 514 West Adams in LA. Tickets start at $15 & reservations are recommended, so please call (213) 747-6285 ext. 106, or email email@example.com.
(*Disclosure: I was provided with complimentary admission to this performance. All opinions are my own & it was a brilliant production.)