Theater Review: THE HUMAN VOICE by Jean Cocteau (Hollywood)

by Sarah Taylor Ellis on April 5, 2011

in Theater-Los Angeles

Post image for Theater Review: THE HUMAN VOICE by Jean Cocteau (Hollywood)


A disheveled bed, letters strewn across the floor, a woman quaking by the phone awaiting her lover’s last call: Jean Cocteau’s 1930 play about the need for human communication is strangely poignant in our contemporary world of pervasive cell phones, e-mail, and Facebook.

A Bunch of Artists’ Los Angeles premiere of Anthony Wood’s new translation of The Human Voice offers a somewhat uneven but thought-provoking production.

In this one-act play, Cocteau draws attention to mediated acts of communication and the inexorable gaps between human beings as a woman faces the end of a long-term affair. She reaches for her lover through his voice – but their old-fashioned telephone wire is continually crossed and cut off. The story unfolds in the shifting space between the unvoiced man on the other end of the phone line, the woman’s audible but unreliable side of the conversation, and the audience’s perception of the unfolding drama.

The Human Voice by Jean Cocteau, translated by Anthony Wood, performed by Ho-JungAlthough her speech is sometimes muddied, Ho-Jung offers a powerful, protean performance. Even as she strives to vocally conceal her pain and assure her lover that she can move on from their relationship, her body communicates otherwise; the woman trembles in her chair, nervously paces the room, and blankly stares out the window. She sustains a dynamic performance under Dan Bonnell’s deft direction, which employs the full range of stage space at the intimate Elephant Space Theatre.

Unfortunately, the design elements are less certain. Melissa Ficociello’s set appropriately evokes the woman’s isolation in a sparsely furnished apartment with its palette of cool colors – yet music cues seem to intrude on a space that should be silent, dead, and desolate. Occasional lighting shifts similarly draw attention to themselves, rather than amplifying the acting.

The Human Voice is a welcome meditation on human communication, including the valuable communicative functions of the theater itself. A Bunch of Artists’ production is worth our attention, despite a few gaps of its own.

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photos by Ed Krieger

The Human Voice
scheduled to close April 24 at time of publication
for tickets, visit


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