David Harrell and Shannon DeVido in STILL MORE OF OUR PARTS. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
BOTTOM LINE: This collection of short plays has a cast that includes both able bodied and disabled actors, and many of the plays explore issues faced by the physically disabled creating thought provoking dramas and comedies that challenge our preconceptions.
For many of us, looking at those who suffer from physical disabilities can make us uncomfortable. Discussing or even thinking about how those with such ailments live their lives is a topic usually avoided. Still More of Our Parts, put on by Theater Breaking Through Barriers, takes the disabled out of the dark corners and into the spot light, causing people to confront head-on their discomforts. Instead of averting their eyes, audience members are forced to watch a disabled cast perform along with their able bodied peers. While most of the plays in this collection of six shorts deal with issues faced by the disabled community, a few are not specifically about disabilities and rather include disabled actors within the cast.
In the opening play “Call Back,” playwright Neal LaBute continues with his usual theme of exploring the power dynamics of sexual relationships between men and women. Physical disabilities are not an immediate subject of the work (although the characters arguably suffer from emotional disabilities) but disabled actors come in and out of the casting office where the play is set.
In “Playing the Card” by Lynn Manning the struggles of the disabled are addressed more directly and honestly within an accessibility office where the disabled are being evaluated to see if they qualify for a transportation service. The Evaluator (Jonathan Todd Ross) proves to be inept and clueless about the needs of the disabled while a well-dressed blind man (Shawn Randall) is advised by a wheelchair bound man (Russell Barnes III) to “dress down and dumb down” in order to make sure he is qualified. If he seems too self-reliant he might not be considered qualified.
In “Fully Accesible” by Bruce Graham, comedy is used to deal with some off the issues surrounding the disabled. This piece is especially funny as it throws political correctness aside in its depiction of an overly self-entitled wheelchair bound woman (Ann Marie Morelli) who poses as a member of a governmental inspection office to complain about a theater not being accessible enough for the disabled, as her demands escalate further and further she begins to demand free theater tickets for all the disabled. Ann Marie Morelli shows a lot of comedic skill and plays well off of actor Mary Theresa Archbold.
Playwright Bekah Brunstetter returns to her familiar terrain of dark comedy in her short play “Forgotten Corners of Your Dark Dark Place.” The play depicts a support group of physically disabled women trying to find sexual fulfillment despite their physical limitations. Talented actor Shannon DeVido particularily shines in the scene as an embittered woman who uses sarcasm to hide her shame over her own lack of sexual experience.
“Supernova in Reseda” by Jerrod Bogard centers around a dying film star (Lawrence Merritt) trying to convince his feisty and over-the-top agent (Tonya Pinkins) to help him gain an obituary mention during the Academy Awards by embarking on a number of zany publicity seeking plans. He is aided by Lauren (Samantha Debicki), a publicist who seems to be on the brink of lunacy.
The show’s finale, “Good Beer” by Samuel D. Hunter, is one of the show’s strongest plays in its mixture of comedy and nuanced drama. In the work, DeVido returns again as Shannon, a physically disabled woman on a blind internet date. When her date David (David Harrell) arrives he is taken aback by her appearance and clumsily tries to make an excuse to leave. “I’m usually not this much of a dick,” he says apologetically as he tries to slip away. We soon learn that David has a secret of his own, and while Shannon has been up front about her disability, David has not.
Most of the works within Still More of Our Parts are compelling in their exploration of the issues faced by the disabled and their use of actors who actually have physical impairments. Many of cast members, especially Shannon DeVido, show off the great talent they possess. While theatergoers might expect a show that is overly politically correct and sentimental, these works actually push the envelope and willingly venture into edgier territory, challenging our perceptions of those who are physically disabled.
(Still More of Our Parts plays at Theatre Row's Clurman Theater, 410 West 42nd Street, through June 28, 2013. Performances are Mondays through Wednesdays at 7PM; Thursdays and Fridays at 8PM; and Sundays at 3PM. Tickets are $19.25 and are available at telecharge.com or by calling 212.239.6200.)