NO CHILD – Touching and Fascinating.
BOB: This wonderful play called No Child by Nilaja Sun is a fascinating piece of work.
KAREN: It is. It is a short piece, barely over an hour. What’s interesting about is that Nilaja Sun who wrote it also performed it off-Broadway
BOB: as a solo piece
KAREN: in 2007 and it won a number of awards both for writing and performance including the John Gassner Playwriting Award and the Lucille Lortel Award, but Rob Ruggiero who is directing it at TheaterWorks has turned it into an ensemble piece with a four person cast.
BOB: I’m not sure who converted it – Rob or the playwright.
KAREN: I think it makes it much more clear because three of the performers play several roles each
BOB: male and female
KAREN: and I’m not sure how one performer could have switched among all these roles without getting you confused. But we didn’t see it off-Broadway.
BOB: We saw it here.
KAREN: It is funny and it is touching. We saw it with an audience of many educators including our daughter-in-law who is an inner-city high school English teacher. They found it so funny.
BOB: The story is rather simple. This woman, Miss Sun, has come to Malcolm X High School in the Bronx to do a drama sequence with some sophomore English students.
KAREN: This is, of course, a poverty level school.
BOB: What she does is have them put on a play.
KAREN: It’s a play we’ve actually seen – Our Country’s Good—which is about convicts resettled to Australia who put on a play. So what we have here is a play about putting on a play about putting on a play. It isn’t as confusing as you might think.
BOB: Lizan Mitchell who plays several characters, narrates the piece as an old janitor who has seen the school change; she is terrific
KAREN: She also plays a very new, young Chinese English teacher who lost control of the class on Day 1. Donetta Lavinia Grays plays Miss Sun, and she is the only performer who plays just one role.
BOB: She is the “artist-in-residence” who is there to teach the class.
KAREN: All the other three performers play a variety of roles – students, teachers, the principal, parents.
BOB: It is fascinating though it is sometimes hard to know who is doing what.
KAREN: At times, I had difficulty trying to figure out which character is being played. But you do catch on.
BOB: The one man in the cast, Anthony Mark Stockard, plays a girl student. At first, I wasn’t sure if he was playing a girl or an effeminate boy. But once you realize that when he plays with his hair, he is playing the girl.
BOB: This is a wonderful work. It indicates how the students come to this and learn through this process to appreciate and understand other human beings.
KAREN: It is funny and touching. It is worth going up to Hartford to see No Child.
This is a transcript of an extemporaneous radio review that appeared on WNHU-88.7 FM and www.WNHU.net