'I Was Most Alive With You' gives the deaf a second voice - Metro US

‘I Was Most Alive With You’ gives the deaf a second voice

T Charles Erickson

No adversity is too tough to swallow. That’s the moral of “ I Was Most Alive With You ,” Craig Lucas’ new play now open at the Huntington’s Calderwood Pavilion through June 26. The production features 35-year-old actor Russell Harvard (“There Will Be Blood,” FX’s “Fargo”) as a deaf, gay, recovering addict. It’s about more than the trials and travails of the deaf experience, though.

At its core, it’s a story about universal themes of understanding, love and loss. After Harvard’s character Knox suffers a tragedy on Thanksgiving night, his family and friends come to his aid. Even his mother, who previously refused to communicate with him through American Sign Language, starts to learn the language. “That becomes a real touching point,” says Harvard through a translator.

A fully inclusive performance

Rather than just having one or two people translating American Sign Language into English (or vice versa) off to the side of the stage, each of the seven actors has their own “shadow interpreter” in “I Was Most Alive With You.” The production’s incorporation ASL is a first for the Huntington.

“With the shadow interpreter being behind the actors [onstage], they’re kind of playing their subconscious — their inner subconscious self,” explains Harvard. “It has never been done before.”

Giving the audience the same show each time

Harvard most notably played Daniel Day-Lewis’ adopted deaf son in “There Will Be Blood,” and “the Adult Men” in Brooks Atkinson Theatre’s production of “Spring Awakening,” but he says the repetitious approach for stage is the much bigger ask.

“In film, we get the shot we want and then we’re done with it,” Harvard adds. “But in [theater], we have to relive it over and over and over. It makes you carry a lot of weight on your shoulders to make sure that the audience gets the same exact experience for every show.”

Hope in the air

While Harvard’s character faces many personal and situational challenges — including a huge loss that upends his life — he’s ultimately just a normal guy that he hopes audience members can relate to.

“Problems that come up in life can be confronted. They can be resolved,” says Harvard on what viewers can expect to take away from the play. “The world has bigger problems. You’re still living. You can still keep on living and everything will be alright.”

If you go:

I Was Most Alive With You, presented by the Huntington Theatre Company
Through June 26
Boston Center for the Arts’ Calderwood Pavilion
527 Tremont St.
Tickets begin at $25
huntingtontheatre.org, 617-266-7900

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