Silent love translations

In American Sign Language, you quite literally are what you do: The sign for an occupation is a verb for what you do, and then the sign for person. For example, a teacher is a "teach person." Similarly, a lover is a "love person." The characters in the ...
March 06, 2008

.In American Sign Language, you quite literally are what you do: The sign for an occupation is a verb for what you do, and then the sign for person. For example, a teacher is a "teach person." Similarly, a lover is a "love person."

The characters in the new production at the Mixed Blood Theater, "Love Person," remark at the simplicity of this explanation - no complex definition necessary for one of the couple's relationships. Simply, "love person."

"Love Person"

WHEN: Feb. 28 through March 22, 7:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday; 3 p.m., Sunday

WHERE: Mixed Blood's Alan Page Auditorium, 1501 S. 4th Street, Minneapolis

TICKETS: $10-$28, www.mixedblood.com

A mixture of Sanskrit, American Sign Language (ASL), English and written e-mail makes "Love Person" one of the most silent productions audiences are likely to encounter.

We meet Ram (Rajesh Bose) as he is reading a translated Sanskrit love poem. The reactions from his audience are varied. Vic (Jennifer Maren) informs him in drunken screams and giggles just how wonderful both he and the poem are. Maggie (Erin McGovern), an English professor who specializes in poetry, is polite and appreciative. Her lover, and Vic's sister, Free (Alexandria Wailes), is entirely unimpressed. As a deaf person who relies on ASL to communicate, Free says she doesn't understand the importance of words, or English for that matter, nor poetry, which is just a hefty combination of what she doesn't understand or think is valid. Nor does she agree with translation, as she wonders, what gets lost in the transfer?

"Translation sucks," she signs later on in the play.

The ensuing argument introduces the two couples, Free and Maggie, Ram and Vic, both stumbling through the trials of love, communication and ultimately the translation of one to the other.

The format of the play makes it entirely accessible to deaf audiences. Portions of speaking are translated by McGovern. LCD television screens translate the all-ASL conversations and facilitate the transfer of e-mail between characters.

With such a visually-oriented play, it's hard to know where to look - the translations onscreen to follow the plot, the hands moving furiously to communicate or the expressive faces of the actors themselves? With so many places to look, you sometimes feel you're missing something. Perhaps that's precisely the point.

And then there are the moments when it all comes together, when you don't have to read the translation to understand the intense conversation and passion conveyed in the hand gestures and emotion-filled faces.

Vic is a twice-divorced party girl who just doesn't want to be alone anymore and somehow sees her salvation in shy and awkward Ram. Free recognizes her sister's reckless behavior and assures Maggie that Vic's heart will soon heal after Ram leaves and doesn't call. The beginning portions of the play scream for the book, "He's Just Not That Into You." A fortuitous mistake leaves Free chatting via e-mail with Ram, forging an emotional connection Vic is incapable of forming in her present state. As miscommunication and mistaken identity plots go, it's fairly predictable, but that doesn't mean the journey isn't enjoyable.

You may regret when the play ends and the inevitable murmur from the audience begins, breaking the spell of silent communication and returning to a world of sound where life isn't as simple as Love, Person.

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