“Skin” presented by Deaf Spotlight

“We need to find the courage to tell the stories that lie beneath the surface, under our skin.” So says Crystal L.M. Roberts about her play currently being offered at 12th Avenue Arts. And courage was indeed required by all those associated with Deaf Spotlight, the producing partner here.

This is a play about deaf lesbian life. The entire play is performed in sign language. It’s a theatre experience devoid of sound except for the occasional garbled noises from some of the characters at taut moments. And there are many of those, both emotional crescendos as well as heartbreaking lows.

Director Alexandria Wailes has made sure that her four characters have very different personalities, obsessions and sexual experiences. They scrutinize the topic of sex almost without stop. Rose (Rhonda Cochran), the elder in the group, looks back on her sexually active days with longing. Ash (Michelle Mary Schaefer) who is butch knows that there are two basics in every life: love and hunger, and she’s out to satisfy both. Sammie (Amelia Hensley), the beauty of the bunch, loves sex in almost any form and has no trouble getting it. Then there is poor Quinn (Kalen Feeney) who is still tying to recover from being gang raped by fraternity guys on Gay Pride Day.

Good acting here, brave acting. I’m sure for the non-hearing, gay audience members, the play is a wonderful telling of real life. For others, it provides a good entry to another culture, a reminder of how diverse all cultures are.

A huge blank screen above and behind the actors serves to print out the dialog as the play progresses so that those in the audience who don’t speak with their hands can follow the action. It is not without it’s problems, however. There is lots of dialog, and reading it makes it difficult to see the action. The system would be more helpful if some adjustments were made by condensing the screened text or changing the speed with which the text moves.

I so frequently think about how lucky we are in Seattle to be exposed to theatre of enormous diversity. With this production we gain an insight into the lives of a subculture that is unfamiliar to most of us.

May 5, 6, 7, 12, 13 at 12th Ave. Arts, 1620 12th Ave., Seattle, Strangertickets.com

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