reviewed by Kevin Hopps

Director, producer, and playwright Melissa Ordaz’ Silent Joy, playing on the fringe of the Hollywood Fringe Festival at the Studio/Stage, is anything but silent, and the experience of seeing (and hearing) this ensemble production was more than a joy.

Adapted from Ordaz’ brother Zach Beckert’s graphic novel of the same name, the play also features an entrancing and ethereal original score by her husband, Matt Ordaz. It’s clearly a family production and the play’s timely and poignant themes deal with family as well.

Maggie Dorfman delivers a captivating and emotional performance as the troubled Girl, who helps a mute boy named Joy, whose lips are sealed by stitches (played by the silent, but wonderfully expressive, John Logie). The kindred chemistry between these two, a combination of overwhelming sorrow and suppressed joy, ignites the moment they meet and only grows stronger as the play progresses.

Together, the two set off to find and take revenge on the one responsible for silencing Joy in such a tragic manner. And, as the Girl wrestles with her mental demons, the journey rapidly becomes a surreal exploration of trauma. A dream-like mood permeates the play, often aided by a chanting and well-choreographed Greek chorus that whirls in and out of scenes, accompanied by the spell-inducing, otherworldly lighting, and the brilliantly hallucinogenic live music.

Haunted by memories, the Girl simultaneously experiences her distant and not-so-distant past, struggling inwardly and outwardly to complete her and Joy’s epic quest. Along the way, we meet the Girl’s family: her father (played by Joshua Lopez), her mother (played by Ramzi Kelley), her brother (played by Christopher Flores), and even her younger self (played by Carolina Reynoso). Family secrets intertwine with one another likes knots in a noose until, finally, the Girl can piece together the mystery of her troubles and her “never-ending sadness.” But will she learn in time to save herself? For the answer, take your own journey.

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