I’m having a theatery week, you guys. Last night Crystan, Laura and I took in the Roundabout Theatre’s production of Children Of A Lesser God, mainly because there was a today’s tix deal, and because you know Joshua Jackson was in it.
We weren’t going to skip that.
I don’t know the play well. I for sure watched the movie in high school but remember very little about it. I don’t even remember what class it was for, I just remember we needed a permission slip signed because Marlee Matlin shows her boobs in it. Anyway, it’s a very powerful play and story about disability and communication and love.
The production here is fairly stripped down, using music in interesting ways and hinging largely on Jackson, who plays James Leeds, a teacher who falls for a maid in residence at a school for the deaf, Sarah Norman, played masterfully by Lauren Ridloff. Unlike many of the other students at the school, Sarah refuses to lip read or attempt speech, she’s known as “pure deaf.”
It’s sometimes hard to watch an actor you love stretch himself, because you see them in a certain way, what’s good is that James is a role that really plays to Jackson’s strengths. He’s deeply hurt, a little bit selfish, and always quick to mask his pain with a joke. As I rolled my eyes to Crystan at one point, “Always with the daddy issues, Josh!” But watching as he learns to sign, slowly at first and then furiously and fluently by the end of act 2, is incredible to behold.
Ridloff, on the other hand, is a complete revelation. The moment where Sarah finally shouts, is heartbreaking, but made more so by Ridloff’s incredible heartbreaking and often very funny performance as a woman who’s finally being understood for the first time in her life.
And as their romance falls apart, it’s clear it’s because neither James nor Sarah are willing to bridge the gap between them in communication. There’s nothing more heartbreaking to me than a love story that’s made impossible by both people refusing to bend.
It’s a beautiful production of a very good play, in the end, and it’s two leads perform admirably. This isn’t really world shaker, but solid, classic theater is important, and messages of inclusion and communities speaking for themselves are always vital.