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A Nervous Smile

a Drama
by John Belluso

COMPANY : Synchronicity Performance Group [WEBSITE]
VENUE : 7 Stages [WEBSITE]
ID# 1725

SHOWING : August 25, 2006 - September 23, 2006



Director Michele Pearce
Set Design Rochelle Barker
Lighting design Jessica Coale
Props Master Elisabeth Cooper
Sound Design Mimi Epstein
Blanka Lynne Ashe
Brian Robbin Bloodworth
Elaine Lane Carlock
Nicole Stacy Melich
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


Love and Hate and the Whole D**n Thing
by Dedalus
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
It would be so easy to dislike John Belluso’s “A Nervous Smile.” Easy to hate it, in fact. After all, all four main characters make choices and do things that, to any ethically-minded person, are downright horrible.

It would be so easy to hate the characters themselves. How can you identify with spoiled-rich yuppies with more money than heart, with more deceit than concern? How can they call themselves parents?

It would be so easy to judge the character of Blanka as a stereotype, an author’s construct designed to spout fortune-cookie-isms with the authority of the noble immigrant. It would be easy to write-off her “Crime and Punishment” obsession as a too-obvious allusion by an English-Major mentality. It would be easy to hate her for showing sense, but finding a nice pay-off more appealing.

It would be so easy to judge the “Special Needs Children” element as an easy construct to get our sympathy, easier when you consider playwright Belusso’s own Physical Limits and early death.

It is the incredible achievement of this play and this production that not only do we not hate and judge these characters, this situation, but we recognize ourselves and respond as if our guiltiest secrets are ripped out of our hearts and splashed in bright red images across Prime Time television. We accept the “constructs” and allusions as integral parts of the characters that happen to echo with external significance.

Most of us don’t know what it’s like to parent a “special needs” child. Most of us will never know the daily grind that a demanding dependent can do to our “moral center,” the gradual wearing away of love until there is nothing left but a screaming need to escape. We thank whatever sense we have for our “normal” children and our “normal” lives; we feel free to indulge in our judgments of those who face on a daily undending basis what we thankfully leave behind on Empty Nest Day.

Talk Radio hosts of both ends of the political spectrum know that it is very easy to inspire judgment and hatred.

And it is a perverse oddity of human nature that it is so much easier to hate than it is to love. It is so much easier to judge than it is to understand.

Make no mistake, the characters in “A Nervous Smile” plan an incredibly callous and cruel act. When the plan is revealed, we gasp, because we have actually come to like them (a little). What makes the gasps resonate, is the realization (especially if you’ve been having a difficult-child day) that the yearning for freedom espoused by the parents is more common than the Moral Guardians of Our Society would have us believe. We gasp at the cruelty, but we realize that, in the same situation, it would be easy, Damn Easy, to make the same choice. And to make it without a shred of regret.

As the denouement unfolds (and I’m being deliberately circumspect in my plot details here), we are pleased that our initial affection for the characters (well, most of them) becomes justified. We cry a little for them when they realize the enormity of their cruelty, and face the consequences of their actions. And we cry a lot for their children.

This is a well-written, well-directed, well-acted work, an emotional roller-coaster ride that left me breathless with its observations of human nature, its ear for language that is more music than dialogue, its ambivalence towards love and hate, and its display of theatrical talent and commitment. Cast members Robin Bloodworth, Stacy Melich, Lane Carlock, Lynne Ashe and (in a tiny but effective carry-on role) Alexandra McColl are all letter-perfect. It’s the best work I’ve seen by director Michele Pearce, and it can proudly take its place with the best of this Theatrical Season.

Yes, it is an easier path to hate than to love. But it is also a part of human nature that sometimes … No, Always … the more difficult path leads you to the better place, and the most difficult leads you to the best.

-- Brad Rudy (


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