COFAP’s Second Series Presents ‘Children of a Lesser God’
Review by Doug Carroll
GCU News Bureau
The play “Children of a Lesser God,” a love story that enters the culture of the deaf to make profound observations about disabilities, opened a three-night engagement Wednesday as part of the student-run “second series” of theatre productions on campus.
The small amphitheatre outside the back of Ethington Theatre was used for the play and proved mostly effective, certainly better than Thunderground was last fall for “The Sign of Jonah.” Distractions were relatively few, and the cast of seven could be heard without much difficulty. The sets for productions in the series are spare, and this one used about a dozen crates strewn about the stage to mark different scenes.
|‘Children of a Lesser God’
|When: 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday.
Where: Ethington Theatre outdoor amphitheatre on GCU campus.
“Children of a Lesser God,” a Tony Award-winning Broadway play written in 1980 by Mark Madoff, was made into a 1986 film starring William Hurt and Marlee Matlin. Matlin, then only 21, won a Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Sarah Norman, a deaf woman whose contentious romance with James Leeds, a hearing speech pathologist at a school for the deaf, is at the heart of the story.
In the GCU production, directed by Maria Anderson and shorter than the two-hour film by about 30 minutes, David Magadan plays James and Courtney Askevold is Sarah. Sarah’s signed dialogue is repeated aloud by James, as if he is talking to himself, and that requires a bit of audience buy-in.
The relationship between the two of them — they eventually marry — is fraught with tension and unaddressed hurts, and Magadan and Askevold deliver on the emotional connection. James tires of constantly being Sarah’s interpreter, and he regrets that his wife cannot hear the Classical music he loves.
He also tires of trying to persuade Sarah, whose steadfast refusal to learn to read lips and speak has walled her off from both deaf and hearing people. The confluence of the two worlds is complicated, and that aspect is “Children of a Lesser God” at its most authentic and poignant.
“Deafness is a silence full of sound,” Sarah signs to James.
“Your silence frightens me,” he says.
Askevold captures the highly visual expressiveness of sign language, and the wounded child inside of Sarah comes out through her. The role of James is a workout for any actor, but Magadan demonstrates that he’s up to the challenge.
Zack Pepe is impressive as Orin Dennis, a deaf man who is much more successful than Sarah at assimilation, and smaller roles as Sarah’s estranged mother (Rachel Sage), the deaf school’s headmaster (Zane Wiles) and a student (Rebekah Dipple), and a lawyer (Melissa Kamel) are played well.
The second series, designed to create more opportunities for students in the College of Fine Arts and Production, is an excellent way to catch GCU’s abundant talent in a different setting. Best of all, admission is free.
Contact Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or firstname.lastname@example.org.