“Lost in the Light” blazes trail for blind theatre

Among its hundreds of theatre troupes, LA now has one composed of artists who are blind, or are losing their sight. Theatre by the Blind (TBTB) also has a lovely new theatre, The Blue Door, in Culver City.

TBTB’s initial offering, Lost in the Light, showcases the many skills that sightless actors and musicians bring — and the often clever means by which they make the stage their oyster.

Lee Pugsley, Magally Ocampo; background – vocalist Jennifer Bevans, keyboardist Rex Lewis-Clack. (photo: Dave Mejia)

The musical revue’s scenes (by Pelita Dassala, from company brainstorms) are punctuated by choral songs (by composer/lyricists Laurie Grant and Chloe Copoloff). They weave the tale of a blind woman, Angel, who’s offered a surgical chance to acquire sight.  We’re shown her colorful family’s responses, her loyal partner’s reactions, her comic conflicts with medical egos, and her first job as a journalist — which leads to an ethical conflict that’s sure to shape her career (and her personal life).

Lost in the Light tackles stereotyped expectations head-on, as Angel (Magally Ocampo) rides her skateboard into the opening scene. It also teaches us to accept a pace in which some actors find their way by touching walls and furniture — and by reading texture changes designed into the stage floor (bet you didn’t see that coming!).

The songs help focus on the themes of ability (“I’m not as small as you think, I can do anything”) and moving out of a family’s embrace (“I’m ready to explore — it’s all through that door”). In a nice touch, Angel’s  later career dilemma echoes her initial conflict: whether to move out, trusting herself in an unknown world.

Lost in the LIght lets some characters’ inner lives shine, notably Grandpa Buck (Enest Pipoly), and the surgeon (Melanie Hernandez). Others — Angel’s parents (Kenny Lee and Sylvia Taylor), her brother (David Sandoval), and her boyfriend (Lee Pugsley) — are written with less complexity, though the actors clearly could deliver more. As the play evolves, time for deepening these characters might be won by gently pruning some songs (which consumed more than half the run time). This show is a promising start for this new company, and could well develop into a powerful theatre standard.

Beyond the play itself, Lost in the Light is an exemplary theatrical achievement. Director Greg Shane and his crew (Grant, assistant director Cosette Ruesga, and stagehand Maria Acosta) have planned, rehearsed, and now stage a musical show in which all 23 performers — 16 actors, a keyboard artist (Rex Lewis-Clack) and six vocalists — require special accommodations. And most companies quail at taking on one “special needs” actor!

A word also must be said about The Blue Door itself. Converted from a storefront with donated materials and labor, the well-equipped house, with its crisp tile front, makes a handsome addition to its urban neighborhood. More important, Shane and the team from CRE Outreach, the sponsoring agency, have made it a warm home for a community of actors who richly deserve one.

Expect to see and hear more from behind The Blue Door.
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Lost in the Light, by Pelia Dasalla and the company, words and music by Laurie Grant and Chloe Copoloff; directed by Greg Shane.
Presented by Theatre by the Blind and Rex & Friends, at The Blue Door, 9617 Venice Blvd., Culver City 90232.

Fridays and Saturdays at 8,
Sundays at 3,
through May 12.

Tickets: <www/creoutreach.org>