We don't often hear from theatre companies for the physically challenged, yet this month has brought three such companies to the fore.
In Los Angeles, Phyllis Frelich -- a Tony-winning actress for Children of a Lesser God -- is directing Brilliant Traces for Deaf West Theatre Company.
In New Jersey, the National Theatre of the Deaf opens a production of Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt, Feb. 7.
And in New York City, Theatre By The Blind arrives at the Samuel Beckett Theatre, Feb. 7, with three one-acts under the umbrella title, Trifocal.
Brilliant Traces, a 1989 hit at Off Broadway's now-defunct Circle Repertory, began previews Jan. 29, opened Feb. 1 and runs to March 1. Cindy Lou Johnson's comedy/drama traces the romance of Henry and Rosannah, a man and woman stuck in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness. Anthony Natale and Jackie Roth play the couple in this mounting, done in American Sign Language with voice interpretation and supertitles for hearing audiences. Designing the show are Robert Steinberg (set), Ken Booth (lighting), and Maro Parian (costumes).
For tickets ($15-$20) and information on Brilliant Traces at Deaf West Theatre Company, call (213) 660-5673 (voice) or (213) 660-8826 (TDD).
The troupe's next show will be William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, adapted and directed by Elina deSantos.
In other Deaf West Theatre news, the company has been negotiating to lease a new theatre in North Hollywood. So far, it's been unable to secure the property and will remain where it is for the first part of 1998. Deaf West left its old home at the Fountain Theatre in 1993 and moved to its present site at 660 N. Heliotrope Drive in Los Angeles.
Deaf West Theatre is a permanent resident theatre company comprised of deaf, hard of hearing and hearing actors. All performances are presented in American Sign Language with simultaneous spoken English translation.
Meanwhile, National Theatre of the Deaf's Peer Gynt plays for one night only (Feb. 7) at Montclair State University, as part of the troupe's 30th anniversary tour. This tale of a man's lifelong, picaresque journey is staged by NTD's artistic director Will Rhys and Pilobolus Dance Theatre artistic director Robby Barnett.
For tickets ($25) and information on Peer Gynt, call (973) 655 5112.
In Theatre By The Blind's Trifocal, two of the performers are sighted, two are visually impaired, and one is blind. "I defy you to tell me who's who," said associate artistic director George Ashiotis. "People...think we must be a therapy organization, but we're fully professional... We've won the Very Special Arts/New York City Mayor's Arts Award and the California Governor's Media Access Award."
Comprising Trifocal are three one acts: Arrayed For The Bridal, a thriller by Maureen McDuffee and Stuart Spencer; In The Bin, a comedy by artistic director Ike Schambelan; and Sheik It Up, a farce by Pete Mikochik. Starring in the trilogy are Ashiotis, Michael Birch, Pamela Sabaugh and Xen Theo.
For tickets ($12) and information on Trifocal at the Samuel Beckett Theatre on Theatre Row, Feb. 7-28, call (212) 358-5943.