Untold Wants Theatre
The Human Ear by Alexandra Wood

Dates and Venue July 18 - 25, 2018, Wed - Sun July 18 - 21 and Tues – Wed, July 24 and 25 at 8pm, Sat matinee at 2pm | Pacific Theatre, 1440 W. 12th Ave.

Director Jessica Aquila Cymerman Sound Jamie Amadruto Lights and Stage Management Phil Miguel

Reviewer Christian Steckler

It is almost always preferable to see a play performed than to read it. Seeing the words acted out, emotions shown, and characters clearly portrayed, brings a playwright’s intent to life, the vision expressed in three dimensions. The Human Ear is a complex play performed in a minimalist style. It takes the audience on a confusing journey into the effects of grief. Not only does it turn stereotypical grief responses on their heads, but it does so while twisting time and people in on themselves and each other, with only the subtlest technical cues.

The play demands the audience’s absolute concentration. Lucy lost her father in the Gulf war. Her brother, Jason, ran away after dubious actions of retribution concerning his father’s death. We join the action a short time after the death of her mother. The play allows us to witness her response to grief and feelings of abandonment. Paige Louter plays Lucy in a convincing portrayal of a grieving woman taken over by loneliness.

The arrival of a man claiming to be her estranged brother, after a ten-year absence, forces a test of trust that drives the play. Eanna O’Dowd does wonders playing more than one character, often switching in intervals of mere seconds. As Jason, Lucy’s brother, and as Ed, her suspicious boyfriend, a policeman, O’Dowd brings, by turns, heart, challenge and sensitivity into his characters. These trigger and are triggered by Lucy’s almost neurotic behaviours and responses, effectively performed by Louter.

This play is a test of skill for the actors, who met the challenge admirably. Light cues, perhaps meant to assist transitions of character, seemed inconsistent. Sound effects - mostly bouts of knocking - added to the confusion. One might conclude that they are indications of the confusion in Lucy’s mind, but that is not certain.

This is a play that is not easy to follow as it is being played. It is a worthy artistic exercise that might be better appreciated with a written script to study and savour beforehand. The strands of time, character, memory and impression, some lasting and some fleeting, complicate it. There were times during the performance when this reviewer suspected miscues and misspoken names and lines, but inconsistent lighting cues and the tortuous script, with its incessant shifts in time and person, made it difficult to say for sure.

A more fleshed-out presentation of this play, making it easier for the audience to follow and grasp, would change it from a play needing to be studied first, to one that would move an appreciative audience in the moment of performance.

© 2018 Christian Steckler