This Real-Life Couple Uses American Sign Language to Find Love, Examine Deafness in Reimagined ‘Brief Encounter’

By Barrera, Sandra | Pasadena Star-News, July 10, 2018 | Go to article overview

This Real-Life Couple Uses American Sign Language to Find Love, Examine Deafness in Reimagined ‘Brief Encounter’


Barrera, Sandra, Pasadena Star-News


It was a sign they were meant to be together.

In “Arrival & Departure,” playwright and director Stephen Sachs‘ spin on the 1945 British film “Brief Encounter” (which was based on Noël Coward’s play, “Still Life”), a pair of present-day lovers come together through a shared understanding of American Sign Language.

Sachs’ play, which opens Saturday and runs select dates through Sept. 30 at the Fountain Theatre in Los Angeles, tells the story of two strangers, both married with children – he’s deaf, and she’s hard of hearing – who meet by chance in a New York City subway station. It’s performed simultaneously in spoken English and ASL with additional use of open captioning.

“I just loved the whole idea of these two deaf people meeting and falling in love, in sign language, in the midst of this loud, busy world,” said Sachs, who wrote the play for his friends, husband-and-wife actors Troy Kotsur and Deanne Bray.

Although they have worked together on stage and television before,” Arrival & Departure” marks the first time that Kotsur and Bray have co-starred together in a play.

And Sachs didn’t have to sell the Oak Park couple who identify as Deaf, which, with its capitalization, signifies them (and the characters) as ASL users and part of the Deaf community, on the idea either.

“I have worked closely with Stephen before, and he is a joy to work with,” Kotsur said, calling Sachs “professional, talented and just a great human being.”

Sachs has been working with deaf stage actors for the last 30 years. He helped establish Deaf West, which started out at the Fountain Theatre. He’s produced plays such as “Sweet Nothing in My Ear” (about a couple struggling whether to give their deaf child a cochlear implant), which got produced around the country and made into a movie starring Marlee Matlin and Jeff Daniels as well as an ASL-version of the play “Cyrano de Bergerac” that starred Kotsur. …

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