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Moving tale of human dignity guides ‘The Elephant Man’

Stage Review

Ricky Jones is John Merrick (left) and Frances Tau‘a is Dr. Frederick Treves in ProArts Playhouse production of “The Elephant Man.” • Jack Grace photo

Ricky Jones is John Merrick (left) and Frances Tau‘a is Dr. Frederick Treves in ProArts Playhouse production of “The Elephant Man.” • Jack Grace photo

The newly remodeled ProArts Playhouse in Kihei features a number of splendid amenities ranging from attractive window dressings, an expanded lobby, more diverse concessions and plush seats, but no new offering was more notable on the opening night of their 2017-18 season than the superb “The Elephant Man.” The powerfully poignant production overflows with a multitude of emotions including grand comedic moments and is, in my opinion, must see Maui theater presented at the highest level.

Ricky Jones’ portrayal of John Merrick, the title character crippled with multiple diseases, is nothing short of a masterpiece. No stranger to high praise, the frequently lauded Jones tops his previous award-worthy performances in this role.

Paired opposite his real-life spouse, Hoku Pavao as Mrs. Kendal, the two deliver several flawless and unforgettable scenes together. Most notably in the last scene of Act 1, when Kendal insists upon shaking Merrick’s hideously deformed right hand, she unleashes an authentic emotional display by Jones that profoundly moved the opening night audience.

Francis Tau’a as Merrick’s protector, Dr. Frederick Treves, also offers an impeccable performance. This powerful trio of the highest talent appears to lift themselves throughout the play to new levels of excellence with each new scene.

“The Elephant Man” is also an ensemble piece with its additional cast playing multiple roles. John Galvin is particularly well-cast as Carr-Gomm, the London Hospital administrator. Kiegan Otterson impresses with his range and distinctively different choices as a London police officer, a hospital orderly and the ruthless manager of a trio of freak show pinheads. Sara Patton, Karli Rose and Ally Shore champion the surreal ingredient to Bernard Pomerance’s script as the Pinheads and Lou Young proficiently presents two contradictory characters — Bishop Walsham How and Ross, a street barker who had previously managed Merrick as a side show freak.

Hoku Pavao as Mrs. Kendal (left) and Jones play opposite each other flawlessly. • Jack Grace photo

Hoku Pavao as Mrs. Kendal (left) and Jones play opposite each other flawlessly. • Jack Grace photo

Added components to the richness of director Sally Sefton’s forethought in this wonderful production is the inclusion of cellist, Michelle Ancheta. Though suggested in the script, a recording could have easily been used, but the live cello added a romantic quality to an already emotionally charged evening of theater. Linda Timm’s detailed costume design furthered the authenticity of this ProArts production, and Caro Walker’s uncomplicated set allows the audience focus to remain upon the language and performances.

“The Elephant Man” belongs on the shortlist of ProArts’ greatest offerings and its remaining performances will likely be a tough ticket to aquire.

* ProArts continues “The Elephant Man” by Bernard Pomerance. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday through Oct. 8 at the ProArts Playhouse. Tickets are $26. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 463-6550 or visit www.proartsmaui.com.

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