By Byrne Harrison
Photos by Carrie Leonard
Have you ever had one of those moments when you are so enthralled by something that you quit noticing time's passage? I had one at the recent production of The Man Who Laughs, Stolen Chair's "silent film" version of Victor Hugo's novel "L'Homme qui rit." From the moment I walked into the theatre to the sounds of the cool American songbook classics provided by Margi & The Dapper Dots, time seemed to pause.
The opening act, as good as it was, only hinted at what was to come. The Man Who Laughs was a visual treat from start to finish, and Kiran Rikhye's adaptation was a wonderful surprise.
Naturally, things do not turn out as Gwynplaine hopes, and his foray into dramatic acting takes a tragic turn when he encounters the bored and decadent Duchess Josiana (played with Theda Bara sexiness by Rebecca Whitehurst) and her paramour Lord David Dirry-Moir (Raife Baker). Repulsed and attracted by Gwynplaine's disfigurement, she attempts to seduce him. It ends badly for everyone.
Stephanie Cox-Williams, one of the most creative visual effects designers working in the Off-Off Broadway community, created some excellent special effect makeup for the show.
The superb ensemble of actors adapted well to non-verbal performance. Their use of exaggeration, large gestures, mime, broad physical comedy, and other techniques seemingly lost in modern film was excellent.
Jon Stancato's direction was strong, and his knowledge of the techniques of silent films showed through. If there can be said to be anything that could use some tweaking, it would be that some of the set changes were overly long. A very minor complaint.
I, for one, would love to see The Man Who Laughs have another run. This was a thoroughly enjoyable production.
The Man Who Laughs
Written by Kiran Rikhye
Directed by Jon Stancato
Music by Eugene Ma
Set Design by Michael Minahan
Costume Design by Julie Schworm
Lighting Design by Daniel Winters
Dramaturgy by Emily Otto
Makeup by Jaclyn Schaefer
Special Makeup Effects by Stephanie Cox-Williams
Props & Graphic Design by Aviva Meyer
Fight Choreography by Noah Schultz
Stage Management by Colin Miller
Featuring: Noah Schultz (Young Gwynplaine), Jon Froehlich (Ursus), Dave Droxler (Gwynplaine), Molly O'Neill (Dea), Josiana (Rebecca Whitehurst), Raife Baker (David Dirry-Moir)
Closed Feb. 24th