The Pear Theatre has outdone itself with a production of Dylan Thomas's "Under Milk Wood," a play that resounds with the beauty of well-chosen words and goes deep with meaning for humanity.
And, praise be, the Pear's artistic director and director of the production, Sinjin Jones, has achieved the mastery of filmwork that we have desired to see from him over the course of the theater company's pandemic releases.
Everything works: good performances from the six-person cast (Oluchi Nwokocha, Ali-Moosa Mirza, Asha Kelly, Thomas Farley, Kalan Birnie and Coco Jimenez), the lighting, the sound, and the very useful closed captioning.
Thomas worked on "Under Milk Wood" -- a "play for voices" -- for more than 20 years, starting it when he was only 17 and developing and polishing it for the rest of his life, which ended at age 39.
The result is fascinating and beautiful poetry, rich with meaning and imagery, as he tells the story of a night, a day, and another night in the fictional Welsh seaside village of Llareggub (set, in the Pear's version, among six clans that come together after the apocalypse).
"It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black."
We the audience arrive in the night to peep in on the dreams of several citizens of Llareggub. Captain Cat, old and blind, is visited by the ghosts of drowned shipmates. Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard dreams of dead husbands. Shopkeeper Mog Edwards and Myfanwy Price dream of each other. Most of the play's 40 characters are represented.
All the actors wear masks, which keeps everybody safer, but it is sometimes confusing to not know who is speaking from line to line. And, the masks sometimes muffle the microphones that I think they are wearing on their faces, making it slightly difficult to understand their words occasionally.
That's part of why the closed captioning is welcome. And, truly, it is a treat to be able to follow Thomas' lovely language. With the dawn, we get more understanding of the hopes and dreams of the wakening town, and more excellent writing from Thomas.
The cast adds to Thomas' imagery with body movements, dancing and stepping from place to place on a circular raised stage with branches that radiate from a raised plinth. One actor may speak the words, while another mimes them from across the stage.
The show was filmed in the round in the Pear's Mountain View theater space. There are multiple camera angles, including one from above, so we get to see everybody go through their choreography.
But, really, it all comes down to the beauty of Thomas's words. Thankfully, this cast delivers them very nicely.
"Under Milk Wood" is available via streaming access through April 11 at thepear.org. Access is $30-$34. A companion piece to this production, titled "The Signal Tower," presented by Dragon Productions Theatre Company and other partners, is being planned for a May release.
Contributing Writer John Orr can be emailed at [email protected]