Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Children Of Vonderly

photo: Matt Zugale

Most of this play's characters are "special needs" - no, make that *all* of the characters, since the matriach (Lynn Cohen, excellent) qualifies by dint of her mental breakdown near the top of the play. The playwright (Lloyd Suh) finds a good deal of mitigating humor in the "special"ness, but he's never condascending. The play, peopled with intriguing characters brought to vivid life by an exceptonal ensemble, begins as the newly widowed matriach calls a family meeting with the (adopted, adult-aged) children to declare, with angry exasperation, that they are now going to have to fend for themselves. It seems almost absurd and cruel, given their mental and physical handicaps. With Mom clearly unable to caregive, it soon falls on Jerry, the wheelchair-bound son, to hold the family together. As expertly and sensitively played by William Jackson Harper, Jerry is the play's compelling center, a convincing contradiction of anger and tenderness. I'm not sure if The Children Of Vonderly ends with a triumph or a defeat for him (and additionally, I'm not sure if the play aims for more thematically than it makes apparent) but I am sure of this: I found Jerry's story completely absorbing and Harper's performance outstanding.

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