April 7, 2014
Venice Theatre presents touching drama based on life of John Merrick
The Elephant Man closes out VT’s ‘13-‘14 MainStage Series with two-week run April 29- May 11
(Venice, FL) A new production of The Elephant Man, the 1979 Tony Award winning drama by Bernard Pomerance, will open on Venice Theatre’s MainStage Tuesday, April 29 and run through Sunday, May 11, 2014. Based on the life of John Merrick who was severely disfigured, The Elephant Man focuses on Merrick’s transformation from a freak show curiosity to a friend of 19th century London’s aristocracy. Performances of The Elephant Man are at 8 p.m. on Tuesdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays. Regular-priced tickets are $25-$28 for adults, $10-$15 for students, and are available now at the theatre’s box office, online at www.venicestage.com or by phone at 941-488-1115. Discounted rates are available for groups of 20 or more. The theatre is also offering a first-week special rate of $20 through Sunday, May 4.
The Elephant Man refers to the derogatory description given to Merrick (played by Venice newcomer Matt McClure) by his side show promoters. The play opens with scenes of him on display in a London store front, then at a carnival side show in Belgium. After being mistreated, abandoned and left helpless, he is eventually admitted to London’s prestigious Whitechapel hospital under the care of celebrated physician Frederick Treves (played by Steven O’Dea). Merrick is introduced to London society and evolves from an object of pity to an intelligent and witty favorite of the aristocracy and literati.
Peter Ivanov directs Venice Theatre’s production. He has stressed the importance of focusing on the play’s themes of love and compassion, especially that of the character Mrs. Kendal. Kendal (played by Kelly Woodland) is an actress who develops a friendship with Merrick. She is the first woman to overlook his deformities and (according to Merrick) the first to ever shake his hand. As with the original stage production, the actor portraying Merrick uses physicality and posture to express Merrick’s condition. The audience is left to imagine the deformity, aided by slides of the real Merrick. Ivanov explains, “This allows the audience to pay more attention to the humanity of the character.”
When it was first produced, The Elephant Man captured the attention of critics and audiences alike. It debuted in London in 1977, moved to Off-Broadway in 1979 and then to Broadway for a two-year run of nearly a thousand performances. Philip Anglim originated the title role on Broadway. He was replaced later in the run by rock star David Bowie who received positive notices for his acting.
New York Daily News described the play as “ravishing theatre.” The New York Times called it “an enthralling and luminous play.” The New York Post raved, “Wonderful, moving and purely theatrical.” And Time called it “A moving drama, lofted on poetic wings …”
Tony voters agreed with critics giving The Elephant Man the Tony Award for Best New Play. It was also recognized with the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New Play and the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play.
A movie of the same name but not based on the play, was produced in 1980, bringing even more people in contact with Merrick’s story. Broadway revived the play in 2002 with Billy Crudup in the lead role. Film star Bradley Cooper will be starring in another revival scheduled to open this fall. Clearly, Merrick’s story remains compelling.
Tickets for The Elephant Man and all Venice Theatre productions through June 2014 are available at the box office at 941-488-1115 or online at www.venicestage.com. Subscriptions are also on sale now for the upcoming 2014-2015 Season. Venice Theatre is located at 140 W. Tampa Ave. on the island in Venice. Box office hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and one hour before all performances.
The Elephant Man
By Bernard Pomerance
Director – Peter Ivanov
Stage Manager – Sandra Henderson
Lighting Designer – John Andzulis
Scenic Designer – Donna Buckalter
Costume Designer – Becky Evans
Sound Designer – Dorian Boyd
Frederick Treves – Steven O’Dea
Carr Gomm – Neil Kasanofsky
Ross/Bishop Walsham How – Rik Robertson
John Merrick – Matt McClure
Snork/Belgian Policeman – Gary Grossman
Porter/Conductor – Patrick Tancey
Mrs. Kendal – Kelly Woodland
Miss Sandwich/Princess Alexander – Jenni Elliott
Duchess/Pinhead – Charlotte Crowley
Countess/Pinhead – Angela Marie Bernardo
Pinhead – Allyson Robertson
Attached photo: CREDIT, Renee McVety
Kelly Woodland as Mrs. Kendal, Matt McClure as John Merrick
140 W. Tampa Ave
Venice, FL 34285