Wednesday, April 24, 2024


Tamara Hickey and Gabriel Kuttner in the Actors’ Shakespeare Project production of “God’s Ear”

Tamara Hickey and Gabriel Kuttner star in the Actors’ Shakespeare Project production of “God’s Ear” starting Wednesday in Davis Square, Somerville. (Photo: Stratton McCrady)

In a season with Racine’s “Phaedra” (first performed in 1677) and three Shakespeare plays, “God’s Ear” stands out – starting Wednesday – as a different kind of entertainment for the Actors’ Shakespeare Project.

The drama of a marriage unraveling after the death of a child gets a surreal spin, with visits by a singing Tooth Fairy, macho transvestite flight attendant and G.I. Joe as a family counselor. But the main thing here is the language, which playwright Jenny Schwartz has crafted as a torrent of babble used to deflect pain, show how words fail in the face of alienating tragedy and just how awkward things get when there’s really nothing left to say.

It may be the most prominent and pointed use of purposefully meaningless language since Ionesco, or maybe Sam Shepard in his “The Tooth of the Crime” era. And it’s an interesting step for a company whose cast is more likely to give meaning to “full fathom five thy father lies” than invest emotion into a dialogue of non-sequiturs and revealing platitudes.

“I think this play is a perfect fit for ASP, as it’s a company whose stated emphasis is on the actor. I can’t think of a contemporary piece of writing that would appeal to an actor’s curiosity more. ‘God’s Ear’ is also a perfect fit for a company of actors devoted to language,” director Thomas Derrah said. “Sometimes we have only our words, and sometimes they betray us when we need them most … what a profound exploration for a company of artists who rely on the spoken word to heal, inspire and communicate.”

Schwartz, a New Yorker, got buzz as far back as 2005 that “God’s Ear” was “the first great play of the 21st century,” and it was yet two years from its Off Off Broadway premier. Since then and its 2008 run in Manhattan, the play has been produced from (in the words of Schwartz’s playwright bio) Lisbon, Portugal, to Boise, Idaho, to Sydney, Australia.

But each production is shaped as much by its director as by Schwartz’s words.

“Ironically, because I was trained as a director, I am extremely hands-off,” Schwartz said. “I am incredibly exacting and precise with regard to the sounds of the words, but I purposefully include few stage directions or descriptions of design elements. I enjoy my role, and want the director and designers to bring as much of themselves to the play as I have.”

Those curious to see what Derrah and his cast and crew have done with Schwartz’s mouth to “God’s Ear” have until April 12.

“God’s Ear” plays at 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, then April 2-4 and April 8-11. There are 2 p.m. performances Sunday and on April 5 and April 12. (The Saturdays, April 4 and April 11, have 2 and 7 p.m. shows.) All performances are at the Davis Square Theatre, 255 Elm St., Somerville. Tickets are $28 to $50, or $15 for student rush. For tickets and information, click here or call (617) 776-2200, Ext. 225.