By Daniel Perkins
I am so excited to see A Tale of Two Cities. I first read the book in an abridged illustrated edition when I was fourteen years old. There were two pictures that left an impression on me. The first was Sydney Carton visiting Charles Darnay, Lucie, and their daughter Little Lucie. Even though Sydney didn’t end up married to Lucie, he still becomes a part of their life. The other was the famous scene as Sydney prepares to die in the guillotine. As he says the famous last lines, I was moved to see a man sacrificing his life for the sake of his unrequited love. The story made a big difference in my life, because it showed me that even when life is turned upside down, there is a chance of redemption. It also showed me the other side of life that I never knew before. Since I had a strong love for the book, I was very excited to see the new production at Trinity Rep. The library setting reminds me of the times I used to spend with my family in the library and the stories that took me to new worlds. A Tale of Two Cities took me to the 18th century worlds of England and the blood-stained streets of France, so the library setting is appropriate.
At every first rehearsal, my fellow sensory-friendly consultant Dan Boyle and I note a couple of things that could help us when we create the trigger list and social story. A sensory friendly performance is a performance that uses accommodations for patrons with sensory processing issues. In addition to the list we create to tell others of possible jarring moments, there is a red light that goes off as a preparation for those moments. In A Tale of Two Cities there is a mention and use of a guillotine which was used for executions. I was very worried this would be a scary part of the show – and that it would make a loud noise that would echo in the theater. What happens is that a loud echo is made as a paper cutter goes down – no guillotine at all! It is effective but still very sensory-heavy, so be sure to grab those lists and prepare for it when it happens. It can be jarring, but Trinity Rep prepares their audiences for this.
Another thing that we prepared for in this show was the blood and violence. The sight of something as intense as blood can be overloading for sensory friendly patrons. As the production crew were presenting their ideas they said they would not be using stage blood. Instead, the crew will be using something else to represent the blood, possibly red fabric and light. There is a moment when the entire cast storms the Bastille Prison. During that moment, there is stage fight choreography that looks real and the chaos with the tables overturned and a stone bust being dropped on the ground.
Now, I won’t get too much more in-depth as not to spoil anything, but this is one show you don’t want to miss. Be sure to get your warning lists and prepare for the red light if you need it! All-in-all it feels wonderful to see this story come to life. Break a leg to the entire cast and crew who will make this production “the best of times!”