Reviewed by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move
Los Angeles’ Deaf West Company teams up with Teater Manu, Norway’s award winning professional sign language theatre group, for the U.S. premiere of “Sjalusi” (Jealousy), a production of mixed signed language and narration. Directed by Magne Brevik, and written by Esther Vilar Jealousy (Sjalusi) is a classic “other woman” tale.
Sitting for one hour with no intermission in a completely ‘signed’ show without spoken word by the actors on stage may seem like an impossibility for a non deaf audience member. In actuality, there is a intense experientiality with language that takes place.
With the absence of character speech, intention is heightened and behaviors given a prominent clarity. Words simply do not get in the way for the ‘listening’ (non-hearing) audience and it leaves the remaining ‘aural’ crowd the freedom of a different kind of imagination. It is an exquisite pleasure to sit with the honesty of this black comedy and letting the expansive emotional range of what is happening on stage, land, visually and right at the core.
The narration, deftly performed by actress Kjersti Fjeldstad, who voices all three women, is remarkably diverse. It drips with hilarity and sarcasm throughout, creating real intrigue and excitement.
Three women living on different floors of a luxury high-rise apartment building, and who have never physically met in person, play out passion and forbidden emotions, love, jealousy and desire through a spunky, high-strung, often impertinent, even sometimes deliberately cruel, set of emails as they each take a turn in a ridiculous affair with the husband (Laslo) of one of the women. Inter-connected by their secrets, two of the women discover that jealously at first may be painful, but it can also be juicy sweet. And living without it is often boring. It truly is a not-so-strange, funny turn of events.
The highlight of this production is that all sign language, is not alike; which comes as a surprise to a non-deaf audience member. The real importance here is that both of these companies have managed to seamlessly, although not without tremendous effort, combine the languages of both teams into an International Sign Language/American Sign Language hybrid.
The result is brilliant, captivating and farcical. Sjalusi is a must-experience show.
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