'Tis true my form is something odd,
But blaming me is blaming God;
Could I create myself anew
I would not fail in pleasing you.
If I could reach from pole to pole
Or grasp the ocean with a span,
I would be measured by the soul;
The mind's the standard of the man.
This poem was used by Joseph "John" Merrick at two points in his life; in his latter years when he wrote to those who cared for him, and initially when he turned to a career as a sideshow freak. Merrick was better known as “The Elephant Man,” and the play that dramatized his story ends its Off-Off-Broadway revival, courtesy of the Synapse Theater Company at the Connelly Theatre, Oct. 29. The show began previews Oct. 7 and opened Oct. 11.
In Bernard Pomerance's play, John Merrick, a deformed but brilliant young man, is found at a freakshow by a surgeon, Frederick Treves. The good doctor turns the downtrodden dreamer into a high society cause celebre. Set in Victorian London of 1884, the play garnered the Tony, Obie, Drama Desk, and NY Drama Critics Circle awards when it first ran in New York City in 1979. (It is one of a small number of plays that have won both an Obie and a Tony in the same season.)
David Travis (Cocteau Rep's No Exit) directs this production with scenic design by Adrian Jones, costumes by Miguel Angel Huidor, lights by Alistair Wandesforde Smith, sound by Ken Travis, and dramaturgy by Maria Padilla.
Featured in the cast as Merrick is Timothy McCracken (NY Shakespeare Festival's Richard II) and Tony Ward (Acting Company's Arms and the Man) as Treves. Other cast members include Jeff Burchfield, Danny Dyer, Nina Hellman, Angus Hepburn, Jamie Jones, Hillary Keegin, and Glenn Peters. For tickets to the Synapse's production at the Connelly, 220 East 4th Street (between Avenues A & B), call (212) 358-5123 or click onto www.culturefinder.com.
--by Ernio Hernandez