Flowers for Algernon, the novel first published in 1966 by Daniel Keyes, is one of my all time favorites. A brilliant commentary on intelligence, assumptions, social expectations, science and how society deals with different ethical and moral challenges. I hesitated to see the movie “Charly”*, based on the book. Few movies can ever exceed the written word. So, I wondered what it would look like in the theatre with more restrictions but also more intimacy than film.
Last night we went to see Flowers for Algernon staged by Bellingham Theatre Guild. Clever staging with few props allowed the audience to see Charlie* evolve from a happy person with low intelligence to a post surgical man with ever increasing intelligence unable to fit into any social situation.
Lucas Naylor’s portrayal of Charlie Gordon deserves a standing ovation. His speech and body language mirror Charlie’s IQ with remarkable credibility. This was basically a one man show with minor support characters. We hear Charlie Gordon’s shift in consciousness through a series of progress reports, initiated after he agrees to experimental surgery based on lab experiments with rats; the successful and now intelligent rat being Algernon.
The relevance of this work today is striking with the rise of Alzheimer’s disease and how we react to the loss of intelligence and the ability to cope in the world.
I was surprised to read that the book has been banned from libraries in both the United States and Canada and pleased to know that it is taught in schools worldwide.
Bravo to community theatre for taking on this controversial subject matter. That’s what theatre is all about.
*The book spelling is “Charlie” and the movie “Charly.”