Children of a Lesser God
By Mark Medoff
Directed by Randy Tapper
Starring Will Campbell, Madison Graham
Breakthrough Theatre, Winter Park Fl
Who knew there was such vicious politics amongst the deaf? James Leeds (Campbell) is the idealistic but weak willed radical speech therapist working for the deaf. He wanted to save the world, but was only willing to burn his Blue Cross card in the 60′s. His boss (Brendon Rogers) assigns him a special case – knock out blonde Sarah Norman (Graham). She’s profoundly deaf and has so many attitudes she’s still in the school at 26. James falls for her, seduces her, and they marry, upsetting Orin’s (Robert Cunha) plans for the deaf to conquer the world. He gins up an employment discrimination suite with New York lawyer Edna Klein (Jennifer Bennett), but he needs Sarah as the really pathetic poster child for the non-hearing. Who’s in charge of Sarah life? The mother who abandoned her (Vicky Wick)? Her husband James? Firebrand Orin? Or dare she speak for herself, and what exactly does she really want?
While the exposition can be blunt (I’m talking James’ phone call to Sarah’s mom), but once the author disposed of all that back story and motivation, this show is quite gripping. The actors all sign their lines (and a few learned the skill just for this show) and Campbell reads most of them for the audience. It’s grueling, and his character feels rather ambiguously. On one hand, it’s clear why he’s stricken by Sara, but underneath is an element of exploitation – he seduces her while she’s a student (admittedly of age legal) but it also feels like he’s needs her helplessness to make him feel like he’s saving something. He has choices; the mildly disabled Lydia (Gabby Brown) has her sight set on him as has lawyer Klein. Sarah seems happy enough as the dorm maid, and she can offer up solid advice on use of toilet bowl cleaner. I can’t say James hurts her, but he does make her life more interesting.
While intimate and moving this show is a technical triumph and I give points to Terry Wolfe as the sign language coordinator. It can feel wordy, and it would be fun to see it without the translations – I think we can guess at most of the plot just with sign language.
For more information, please visit http://www.breakthroughtheatre.com