Wednesday, December 31, 2014

ENTER THE STRANGE WORLD OF "THE ELEPHANT MAN"

Being labeled a freak of nature or a side show spectacle has to be a devastating judgment by society.  People are too quick to pronounce opinions and accept prejudices, assuming an air of superiority so they can look down their pointed noses in disdain.

Imagine being born Joseph Merrick and being stricken at birth with a debilitating skin disease that distorts and disfigures.  Is anything close to a normal life possible?  Do you spend years trapped in a workhouse or a mental institution?  Do you allow yourself to be put on display in a circus world of oddities?

Meet "The Elephant Man" by Bernard Pomerance currently playing at the Booth Theatre, 222 west 45th Street, New York City until February 15.  Bradley Cooper has crawled into Joseph Merrick's skin, inhabiting all his problems and phobias, absorbing his personality and patterns of speech, capturing his unique walk, adopting his life qualities.  His performance is remarkable as he becomes his character in 1001 vital and distinguished ways.

When the play opens, Merrick has been "rescued" by Dr. Treves (Alessandro Nivola), who oversees his care and treatment, providing him with a semblance of normalcy for the first time in forever.  He introduces him to a lady of refinement and breeding, an actress, Mrs. Kendal (Patricia Clarkson) who treats Merrick as an equal, as a human being of value, as a man.

With a taste of what life could be, Merrick sees what he might have been if not for his disease.  That reality is both a blessing and a curse, a certainty that is ultimately too much for him to accept.  Scott Ellis directs this glimpse in time, this painful and poignant portrait of a man who has little to no control over his destiny.

For tickets ($158 and up), call 212-239-6200 or online at ElephantManBroadwaycom or Telecharge.com.  Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.

Let Bradley Cooper assume the persona of Joseph Merrick so brilliantly that you personally feel all his trials and triumphs.

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