Being deaf, gay, alcoholic: “I Was Most Alive With You” in Boston

 I Was Most Alive With You, by Craig Lucas, at the Huntington Theatre. Photos by T Charles Erickson

I Was Most Alive With You, by Craig Lucas, at the Huntington Theatre. Photos by T Charles Erickson

Perhaps the first ever play to feature a gay story that is half spoken, half signed, Boston’s Huntington Theatre Company is offering the world premiere of I Was Most Alive with You. Written and directed by Craig Lucas (Prelude to a Kiss at the Huntington and An American in Paris on Broadway) it is a unique theatrical experience, performed both in English and American Sign Language. Performances begin Friday, May 27 and continue through June 26, 2016 at the South End / Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA.

“Craig Lucas’ latest work is a gorgeous play about what it means to believe in other people and to choose life even in the darkest of moments,” says Huntington Artistic Director Peter DuBois. “His complex characters, searching for meaning and connection, will move and inspire our audiences. Craig is one of the American theatre’s master playwrights, and this newest play bursts with emotion and intelligence.”

At Thanksgiving dinner, Knox shares that he is grateful for three things he thought were a curse: being Deaf, being gay, and being an alcoholic. After a terrible accident and what feels like the trials of Job, he and his family’s resilience is put to the test. The story of Job is shared by the Torah, Bible, and Koran, and Lucas’ play similarly explores the story through multiple spiritual lenses. While the hybrid combination of spoken English and the broader, more theatrical ASL this funny, ambitious, and beautiful new play pulses with the exhilaration and ache of human connection.

I Was Most Alive with You is a new play written by a hearing artist and featuring both Deaf/deaf and hearing actors. Four shadow interpreters will be on stage, moving in close proximity to the actor they are interpreting. Integrating ASL interpreters onstage allows all audience members to focus on the action of the play together. For audience members not fluent in American Sign Language, text will be projected when only American Sign Language is being used to communicate on stage. ASL fluent members of the Deaf/deaf/hard-of-hearing communities are invited to purchase tickets to any performance.

“I’m so excited to be working on this play at the Huntington,” says playwright and director Craig Lucas. “Peter DuBois and I have a long friendship and now I am over the moon about working with his incredible colleagues. I couldn’t be more thrilled about the process, the actors, and the project. And if the process so far is any indication, then this is far and away the most meaningful artistic journey of my life.”

Russell Harvard (Spring Awakening on Broadway, There Will Be Blood, and “Fargo”) plays Knox, a 30-something recovering alcoholic and drug addict, who is Deaf and gay.

BOSMostAlive2Craig Lucas wrote the role of Knox specifically for Russell after seeing his performance in Tribes Off Broadway in 2012. Steven Goldstein (Big Fish at SpeakEasy Stage Company) plays Ash, Knox’s father and also a recovering alcoholic. His wife Pleasant is played by Dee Nelson (Sons of the Prophet and All My Sons at the Huntington) and his mother Carla is played by Nancy E. Carroll (Rapture, Blister, Burn and The Seagull at the Huntington). Astrid, Knox’s best friend and writing partner, is played by Marianna Bassham (Luck of the Irish and Becoming Cuba at the Huntington). Knox’s 20-something love interest Farhad is played by Tad Cooley (Tribes at Denver Center for the Performing Arts), and Carla’s nurse Mariama is played by Gameela Wright (A Streetcar Named Desire at Northern Stage). The shadow interpreters are Joey Caverly, Amelia Hensley, Monique Holt, and Christopher Robinson.

In developing the story, Knox’s overlapping identities were critical to Lucas. “There’s a confluence between being Deaf, being gay, and being an alcoholic,” Lucas says. “They are three things which the larger society might view as limitations, if not disabilities, and three things which the play’s protagonist views as gifts. The difference between those two views — disability or gift — is the embodiment of the wisdom vs. despair choice.” At the same time, Lucas was keen to avoid depicting ‘perfect’ or ‘idealized’ characters. “There are quite a few communities dramatized in the story,” Lucas says. “Each of these groups has particular ways of speaking about experience when like-members are alone with one another, and ways they wish to see their demographic represented to the larger world. The play seeks to avoid handling the discrepancies between these two things with kid gloves.”

For more information and tickets, visit I Was Most Alive with You is supported by Huntington Season Sponsors Carol G. Deane and J. David Wimberly and by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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