UW Stout Theater presents The Elephant Man

Robert Timmler

University of Wisconsin–Stout Theater 2019 fall production is “The Elephant Man” based on the true story of English man Joseph Merrick, who suffered from Proteus Syndrome, a genetic disease that causes tissue overgrowth. For Merrick, his condition caused him to grow deformities that prompted people to call him “The Elephant Man.” 

The story of “The Elephant Man” is of Merrick (played by Nick Franco), a deformed man that is an attraction at a freak show. The show is run by Ross (played by John Hoffland), a sinisterly greedy man, who introduces Merrick to Doctor Treves (played by Derek Johnson). Doctor Treves promptly exams Merrick at the hospital he works at and returns Merrick back to the freak show. A brief exchange between the police and Merrick motivates Ross to see him as a risk therefore deciding to cheat Merrick out of his earnings and ship him off to Liverpool. 

There, Merrick is luckily rescued by Treves before an angry mob could rip Merrick to pieces. Treves then takes Merrick back to the hospital, gives Merrick his own room, and an education with the assistance of Kendall (played by Jasmine Fredrick), an actress who’s the only woman able to withstand Merrick’s deformities and help attempt to normalize Merrick. The question arises, will society ever learn to love a beast, or will Merrick be stuck a freak show.

The production of “The Elephant Man” is tremendous from the performances, set design and story. The set design is able to transfer the story from different settings while only a limited number of set transitions. The lights and fly work were impeccable and permits smoothed transitions to enhance movement of the story. Nick Franco provided an amazing performance of Merrick from his sluggish walk, slurred speech, hunched back and crooked face enhancing the audiences’ empathy toward Merrick. Every character in the story bring their own unique benefits to the production. 

The story portrayed complicated themes and concepts. It covered greed, child slavery, finding the beauty within and exemplified the hostility between religion and science. It’s a story that’s complemented by its actors and the production crew, “The Elephant Man” will bring the story to life for audiences everywhere.