Monday, February 16, 2009

Another Rave for "Children of a Lesser God"

Posted by Bruce Miller
John Porter, theatre critic for WCVE-FM, has written a glowing review of Children of a Lesser God. You can hear the review by visiting our Signature Season page, or you can read the transcription right here:
John Porter's Review of Children of a Lesser God

"Few pieces of theatre history have had the lasting impact that Children of a Lesser God has had on mainstream America. When it first premiered in the mid-80s, and when the film version was released, it had a profound effect on raising the consciousness of audiences worldwide towards the issue of deaf rights. You would have to look back to the efforts of Helen Keller to find someone who had more of an impact.

So I was curious to see how the play had held up. I had not seen it since maybe the late 80s, and I was wondering if it would appear dated and didactic. I am delighted to say that it is neither. Children of a Lesser God, now playing at Barksdale Theatre at Willow Lawn, is powerful beyond words, shattering with emotion, the kind of play that holds you in its powerful grip long after the show has ended.

Erica Siegel as the deaf and hard-to-reach Sarah Norman runs her emotions back and forth at full breakneck speed. One minute hostile, the next curious and loving, she is impossible to predict, and as such remains a powder keg waiting to explode. Some actors get into a comfortable rhythm during a performance, but Siegel never settles down, even when you think she has. Siegel delivers a bravura performance that leaves you breathless.

Landon Nagel as James Leeds has the difficult role of portraying a man falling in love while also serving as Siegel’s interpreter for the audience. He sails through these tricky waters easily, and carries much of the emotions of the show on his shoulders. Nagel is a powerful performer, and has blossomed by constant work in the area, and shows a great deal of promise for roles to come.

Other standout performances include Richard Gregory as Orin, the rabble-rouser who fights for deaf rights, Linda Poser as Mrs. Norman, Sarah’s mother, who has been hurt by her daughter and lives mostly in isolation, unsure how to support her daughter and never stopping loving her. Also Kenneth Waller as Mr. Franklin, the man in charge of the school who strives to make life better for his staff and students, but doesn’t deny the difficulty each will face in the world.

On the technical side, director Bruce Miller has chosen very strong artists. Katie Fry’s set is workable, Sarah Grady’s costumes are solid, and Lynne Hartman’s lights are perfect mood setters. At once introspective, other times straightforward, they play through the characters’ memories and evoke the proper moods at every turn.

Over the years I have been accused of only loving so-called serious plays and nothing is further from the truth. I enjoy a light evening’s entertainment as much as the next person. But when offered a deeply satisfying adult evening of theatre that makes you ask questions about the world around you, well, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Children of a Lesser God is a rare play that offers satisfying entertainment, and helps you examine lives you may not otherwise have experienced.

That's a rare evening indeed.

For WCVE Public Radio, I'm John Porter."


Anonymous said...

I saw the show last weekend and thought it was brilliant. One of the best, most moving and thought provoking plays I've ever seen. By the end I couldn't ever talk with my friend without crying. And it was so funny too. Beautiful, beutiful job by everyone involved.

Laura Smith

Anonymous said...

Landon Nagel and Erica Siegel should be on Broadway. It was that good. Sometimes it's hard to believe that we have theater like this in Richmond. So much better than Broadway Under the Stars ever was.

Anonymous said...

Children of a Lesser God was the most powerful play I ever saw. I also hope to see Michelle Mary Schafer in more productions!