It is time to break new ground at Cleveland Play House (CPH). To empower that mission comes the CPH “New Ground Theatre Festival,” which showcases new theatrical works and play readings from nationally recognized artists. The first offering is the fascinating “Informed Consent” by Deborah Zoe Laufer, co-produced with Geva Theatre Center; half the cost and twice the thrill. Beautifully directed by Sean Daniels, this play tackles questions of Bio-ethics. As a person, would you want to know your genetic defect? As a medical professional, should you tell someone they have a genetic defect, when in fact the reason they are there is for something else? And when you sign that paper before you take a blood test, what are you really consenting to?
The story which examines these questions follows Jillian (Jessica Wortham), a genetic anthropologist who finds herself on a frantic journey to find a cure for early onset Alzheimer’s. She has learned she has inherited the defective gene, and she wants to solve the problem to prevent passing it on to her children. At the same time, she is asked by her colleague, social anthropologist Ken (Gilbert Cruz) to assist in a study of the isolated Havasupai Tribe, who is dying out due to type 2 diabetes. In her overzealous quest for self preservation and medical research, she makes some dire decisions. As a result, she sets a collision course with Ken, her husband Graham (Fajer Al-Kaisi), the tribe contact and spokeswoman Arella (Larissa FastHorse), and Dean Hagen (Tina Fabrique). It is a 90-minutes-plus journey that is fascinating.
We find a company of actors spread out on a “baked earth” set, (Scenic Designer Michael Raiford), which propels us to desert essence, representing the base of the Grand Canyon, where the Havasupai Tribe resides. A genetic code consisting of lit boxes permeates the set. With the ability to change colors and function as prop containers, the set tells the story all on its own. Add in effective lighting (Brian J. Lilienthal), clear sound (Matt Callahan), and perfect costumes (Amanda L. Doherty), and we are ready to get our genetics on!
The cast is led by Wortham, who embodies Jillian with excellent choices. Wortham handles the frantic pace and unstoppable desire with flawless execution. She is both funny and intense. Al-Kaisi is so realistic as the husband and almost full-time daddy. He brings a beautiful awareness to Graham, and the scene where the couple meets for the first time is hilarious. Great work. FastHorse is powerful as the tribe spokeswoman. She provides a regal personae bathed in tradition and pride, and deft execution of her characters. Cruz has all the right moves within his characters. Whether perfectly playing the social anthropologist or the lawyer, he is on target and brings the passion when called on to do so. Fabrique is funny, stern when needed, and has a beautiful voice. All combine to make a huge contribution to the evening within Laufer’s characters.
Kudos to playwright on being able to generate an excellent play about bio-ethics and still make it funny. The blend results are a beautiful and fulfilling evening of theatre. And let’s not forget Stage Manager Jennifer Matheson Collins for calling a great show.
Please credit TPOGRAPHY.COM, for any quotes used. Thank you.
The actors and stage manager in this production are members of Actors’ Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers in the United States.
The director is a member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, a national theatrical labor union.
The scenic, costume, lighting, and sound designers in LORT theatres are represented by United Scenic Artists, Local USA-829 of the IATSE.
7:30pm Thursdays (also 1:30pm Matinee on 5/8)
$15-$61 Reserved Seating
Cleveland Play House
Allen Theater Complex
1407 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44115