Well, this is a terribly second-hand review. Which really wouldn’t be fair, so I won’t even try to review the play, because I’m not going to be in town to see it. Instead, I’m reviewing the reviewer, or at least remarking upon the reviewer.
Nonetheless, I was skimming through newspaper headlines this morning, and the New York Times had a review of the play, “The Children of Vonderly”. A few lines by the reviewer, Neil Genzlinger, made me come up short. The review title is, “All families different? Not this different.”
And a paragraph later, the reviewer notes:
The Vonderly family of Indianapolis is aggressively atypical.
Okay, this mythical family is more diverse than many, but really, one of five Americans has a disability, and disabilities are not rationed — it’s not only possible but not uncommon for families to two two or more people with disabilities, even completely unrelated disabilities.
Mr. Suh’s boldest stroke, though, is not putting so many disabled characters into a single play; it’s building in an intrafamily romantic triangle as well. Yes, a romantic triangle.
Am I misreading something, or is the reviewer flabbergasted at the idea of a play with “so many disabled characters” and “a romantic triangle”? Disabled people get themselves into romantic triangles, too, along with unrequited love stories, and mushy soap-opera level romances (gay, straight, bi) as well.
The reviewer did catch one peculiarity:
It would have been doubly interesting to see the play performed by disabled actors, but under Ralph B. Peña’s direction the cast here is never less than credible.
What, the casting director couldn’t find actual disabled actors? Granted, putting an able-bodied person in a wheelchair isn’t quite as bad as putting them in blackface, but you’d think they’d be able to find disabled actors in freaking New York City, of all places. I mean, the town is downright riddled with actors.
Naturally, I have no idea how much the section editor hack-and-slashed the reviewer’s copy to squunch it down to whatever space requirements were dictated by the ad sales on that page (and that, O Best Beloved, is sadly how a lot of those editorial decisions get made). But it’s still notable that half of the article seems to be wrapped up in revelling about the fact that this play’s about disabled people!
Well yeah, duh, you might reply back to me, so of course the reviewer’s going to focus upon that.
But it’s how that focus was er, played out, that I’m focused upon. Ordinary play reviews focus upon things like the scriptwriting, and how well the actors could fulfill or overcome the script, how well the actors worked off each other, how they interacted with the audience, the limitations of live theatre, the sets and costuming, and music if there was any, and the social relevance of the plot, and all those other details. In other words, the review is about the play, as a piece of live theatre. When someone puts on Fiddler on the Roof, the reviewers don’t spend half the review caught up in Oh-my-gosh, this play’s about Jews! With yes, a romantic triangle!
Isn’t it about time we got past the point where disabled people are such a bloody novelty?
(Now, if any of you all get to actually see this play, I’d be interested in hearing your take on it.)