A theatre review of Write Act Repertory’s “A Journal of The Plague Year,” written by Willard Manus, adapted from Daniel Defoe’s book, directed by Daniel E. Keough, produced by John Lant and Anne Mesa, running through December 19 at The Brickhouse Theatre in the NoHo Arts District.
This stirring and obviously very relevant story of pandemic sickness is told through the account of a business man, H.F., living in London in 1664, when the black death hit the world hard and killed half the population of London.
Write Act Repertory’s “A Journal of the Plague Year” is told as a radio play, with the cast playing many roles and sitting onstage while the story unfolds. I find onstage radio style plays to be a very intimate way of telling a story.
There’s no action to distract from central themes, simple wardrobe, no staging, and what is left is the core of the story – the people, the sounds the emotion and the tale well written and well told.
The Write Act Repertory actors are really very good. They embrace the language and the sadness and the drama.
The main character also narrates the piece, which feels natural, like a friend sitting you down to explain everything that happened to him. It’s intimate and compelling, touching and truthful.
The Write Act Repertory shows are never far away from the current narrative, so I’m not surprised that they take this opportunity to address what is happening still all around us in such a dramatic and profound way. Usually theatre is our window on worlds we do not ourselves populate.
However, in this case, this play is about something all of us can relate to, but looking at it through a historical lens gives us a reminder that we survived worse. And that we can and will survive this.
Daniel Defoe is a master of course, and this adaptation by Willard Manus, a novelist, journalist and playwright, fits perfectly into our own story. The Write Act Repertory’s “A Journal of the Plague Year” production is vivid and charming. We should support our local theatres, those that have survived, and this is a perfect chance to do just that.
Charles Anteby, Shelly Desai, Dean Ghaffari, Hettie Lynne Hurtes and Gale Madyun.
Original music composed and performed by Smokey Miles. Jonathan Harrison, stage manager/technical director. Directed by Daniel E. Keough. Produced by John Lant and Anne Mesa.
Running through December 19
Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 3pm
The Brickhouse Theatre
10950 Peach Grove St.
North Hollywood, CA 91601