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Children of a Lesser God
a Drama
by Mark Medoff

COMPANY : Centerstage North Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : The Art Place - Mountain View
ID# 1651

SHOWING : August 10, 2007 - August 18, 2007



James is a young, idealist speech therapist who joins the faculty of a school for the deaf after three years in the Peace Corp. There he meets Sarah, a headstrong dropout now working as a maid at the school who is totally deaf from birth and estranged from the hearing world. Together they discover a love so powerful that it seems to bridge the enormous gap that separates their vastly different worlds of sound and silence. Tony Award-winning Drama.Directed by Mike Crowe.

Director Sarah Mitchell
Stage Manager Sue Borden
Asst. Director Traci Kemp
James Leeds Jeffrey Bigger
Franklin Pete Borden
Mrs. Norman Suzanne Hutto
Edna Klein Vicki Kaeberlein
Lydia Michelle Klinger
Sarah Norman Barbara Joanne Rudy
Orin Dennis Brian Twomey
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Sometimes silence can be golden
by Shadrach
Sunday, August 19, 2007
I made the long trek over to CenterStage North tonight to see my first show there - "Children of a Lesser God", a play that I am very fond of. I have been in the play twice before (once as Orin and the other as James Leeds), so I had VERY high standards for this play. I try to be as objective as possible when seeing a play that I have done before, but I can't help comparing it to the one I did. I think all actors do that, though.

This was the first time I had a chance to see the play from the audience's perspective. The main reason I went was because my friend Brian Twomey was in the play (he played Orin). I think CSN did a great job with this challenging play. Here's what I liked about it and didn't like about it.

- Barbara Rudy (Sarah Norman) blew me away in her performance (and I'm not just saying that to make Brad/Dedalus happy). Her sign language was very fluid and it looked effortless. I found out during intermission that she and Jeffrey Biggar (James Leeds) had been working on their sign language since January. Wow, 8 months to learn sign language. I wish I had that luxury. I only had 2 months to learn all my sign language when I played James Leeds (and I just managed to learn it all in time - I was still tweaking my signing right up to opening night). It really shows in the actors' performances, especially Barbara. She looked right at home as Sarah.

- Jeffrey Biggar carried the role of James pretty well (there are some choices that he made that I would, and did, do differently), but he did a nice job. This is a character that I find a lot of fault with, especially since I played him before (still is my favorite character of all the roles I've played). I really enjoyed the climax of the play between James and Sarah near the end of the play.

- the supporting actors all carried their roles well. I should mention that they did have one deaf actress in the play (she played Lydia), and she was wonderful to watch. She played Lydia to a T, very sultry and lustful for James. Brian Twomey also did a good job playing Orin, the rebellious deaf guy who is on a quest for deaf rights. I was hoping that the actress who played Edna Klein (the lawyer) would come off as more obnoxious. It makes the scenes between James/Klein and Sarah/Orin/Klein funnier if she's more obnoxious and ignorant of the deaf culture (at least they were in my previous productions).

- some of the blocking they did looked really well done. I was thinking from time to time "dang, I wish we had blocked this scene like this when we did the play". They utilized every exit possible, even coming in from the rear of the audience a few times, which "brings" the audience into the play. I always like it when theatres do that (a great example of what I'm talking about is the Shakespeare Tavern - they utilize this concept very well).

Didn't Like:

- I didn't really like the fact that Orin and Lydia were played by actors in their 30s or 40s. These 2 characters are supposed to be in their late teens to early 20s. Brian explained why they made those casting decisions, and I guess it worked. It just kept throwing me off, though. Barbara actually looked young as Sarah (no idea how old Barbara is, and I didn't ask) - she could have been in her late 20s or early 30s. I think Sarah is 25 in the play, Orin is 22 and Lydia is about 19 or 20.

- the card game in the beginning of Act 2 was set up pretty strange. All the actors were sitting on 2 benches facing downstage (the audience). I've never seen people play cards that way before, especially bridge. I think the actors could have at least moved the benches horizontal to each other (facing Stage Left and Stage Right) or even diagonally at an angle so they would be facing each other and still facing the audience. The whole sequence in the card game looked pretty off to me.

- it looked to me like the actors who were signing (especially Jeffrey) signed a lot more of Signed English than ASL. ASL is what most deaf people prefer to use - it's easier to sign and flows better than Signed English (where you actually sign EVERY single word - it gets really boring to watch after a while). James starts out with SE a lot because before he takes the job teaching at the deaf school, he wouldn't know very much ASL, but I think as the play progresses, he would switch to ASL, especially after living with Sarah for a while. Jeffrey did a mixture of both, but I noticed a lot more SE than ASL.

All in all, I thought the play was successful. I happened to see the play on the same day as a deaf friend of mine saw it (the person who actually taught me all my sign language for James Leeds), and she said they did a great job. Kudos to everyone involved in the production - y'all should be proud of yourselves. I look forward to seeing future productions at CSN.



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