Some of Our Parts
nytheatre.com review by David Gordon
June 22, 2011
The writers are some of New York’s finest known and up-and-coming writers: Bekah Brunstetter, Samuel D. Hunter, Neil LaBute, Kate Moira Ryan, Diana Son, Jeff Tabnick, and Emily Chadick Weiss. The short plays they provide are all centered, in one way or another, on disability. This is Some of Our Parts, a presentation of Theater Breaking Through Barriers.
Some of Our Parts contains some really excellent plays, along with a few that are less so. A number of them provide fascinating commentary on the state of disability in America; others are too preachy. The acting, however, is generally flawless, even if some of the characters are more than obnoxious.
This is the case in Tabnick’s The Big Payback. Melanie Boland and Nicholas Viselli play a mother and son who quickly learn that while she wishes for good things to happen to him (and they always do), he only wishes for bad things to happen to her (and, of course, they always do, down to an icicle poking out her eye.) The characters are so obnoxious that even with the solid performances by Viselli and Boland, we’re never on their side.
Weiss’s Good Dancer is a drama about a woman (Melanie Nicholls-King) who is afraid to tell her parents that her new boyfriend (Gregg Mozgala) has a Cerebral Palsy-related limp. There are solid, convincing performances, but both of the characters are too whiny.
Ironically, and contrary to his usual wont, the three older men who populate LaBute’s Cripples are all likeable. The friends (John Little and J.M. McDonough) are listening to one (Kenneth Kimmins) recount his sexual experiences with a woman without legs in a VA Hospital and how it affected his perception. The piece contains LaBute’s standard usage of profanity and four-letter words, but beyond that, it’s surprisingly tender.
How one perceives beauty is explored by Brunstetter in her locker room-set Gorgeous. Two women with artificial limbs (Mary Theresa Archbold and Anita Hollander) are taken aback to see the self-infatuation of Gorgeous (Tiffan Borelli) and try to give her a piece of their mind. Yet Gorgeous has a surprise of her own.
Perception also plays a large role in the two best plays, Son’s Blind Date and Hunter’s Welcome to Wal*Mart. The first finds a man in a wheelchair (Alden Fulcomer) trying to convince a good-looking woman (Pamela Sabaugh) to go out with him, despite his disability. The second involves two Wal*Mart greeters, one in a wheelchair (Shannon DeVido) and one without a hand (David Harrell), who debate how the customers they greet perceive them. Both plays provide first-rate, well-thought-out performances which further enhance the skilled texts.
Throughout Some of Our Parts, Ryan provides monologues collectively titled Casting Call, which finds a character named Ike Schambelan (played by others, and eventually by Schambelan), artistic director of TBTB, trying to persuade theater companies to hire disabled actors for plays with disabled characters (such as The Glass Menagerie and Children of a Lesser God). These often confrontational one-sided calls, which inevitably end badly, provide the strongest commentary on disability in America today and prove exactly why Theater Breaking Through Barriers is as vital as it is.