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A Night of One Acts

Luke Lindsey, Staff Writer

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   In mid-October, A Night of One Acts was performed at Central’s Performing Arts Center. Two outstanding plays about love and its complications were performed: Children of a Lesser God and Steel Magnolias.

Children of a Lesser God highlights the struggle of the relationship between a hearing man and his deaf student, and the scarcity of bridges between the hearing world and the Deaf World. The show centers around the memories of James Leeds, a young speech therapist, who is assigned to help a 26 year old deaf woman, Sarah, learn to speak and lip read. James attempts to bridge the gap between the two worlds so that Sarah can “function” among hearing people. Her distaste for the hearing world stems from a childhood of neglect and belittlement due to her inability to hear. Throughout their lessons, James and Sarah start down the road of a relationship despite her insistence on not learning to speak, or lip read. Their love is a collision of differing cultures, both unknowingly trying to pull one another into a community that they don’t fit into. Tensions build in the show as James, played by Garrett VanWambeke, marries his patient, Sarah, played by Victoria Corey. The other speech therapy students such as Lydia, played by Peyton Ashley, and Orin Dennis, played by Joseph Signa, hold a strong bitterness against their therapist’s absence.

Children of a Lesser God brings attention to a group of people whose struggle to communicate has been under the radar, and has just recently been brought to light. In the late 19th century, the Deaf Community was viewed as retarded and incapable of functioning in society and were educated orally as an effort to bring conformity about them; they were heavily discriminated against and taken advantage of regardless, and this way of teaching brought the stigma that spoken languages are more superior. In 1960’s, ASL was recognized as its own language separate from English. Although circumstances have improved relevant to the perspective on and treatment of the Deaf Community, the notion of disablement related to an inability to hear is still around today. The pain of this remains fresh and is noticeable in the show.

James’ internal battles rage throughout the play, between love and his care for other patients, and accepting Sarah or trying to help her speak despite her reluctance to do so. Sarah relies on James as a translator for when she needs to communicate to those who hear. Her refusal to learn how to read lips and attempt to speak string from a troubled childhood of mistreatment and neglect, but her refusal takes a toll on James who feels overwhelmed and doesn’t understand where she’s coming from. The clash of these emotions gradually climaxes to everyone’s breaking point, and the snap of that tension is enough to shake the Earth.

Later on in the night, audiences got to see 6 young actresses take on the iconic roles in Steel Magnolias. The play highlights the sister bond between women, especially through the trials of relationships and illness. A group of women meet at a hair salon and discuss gossip on almost a daily basis. As the show progresses, their gossip starts to become something more intimate, especially when Shelby begins to open up more, and what once was a gathering of small talk and shared laughs transitions into a trusted friend group of notable depth in a short time period. Some friendships just happen and you don’t remember much of how or when, like how two or more people can “click.” In this scenario, the group of women in the salon, is a prime example of that. Shelby opens up over a short time period, which gave the others the opportunity to do the same. The diversity of this group is one of the major factors that make their story unique and captivating. The relational aspect of the play deepened rapidly like those open friendships that just happen and rarely occur, which made it almost feel unrealistic, but was realistic enough to relate to and appreciate.

The show is a lighthearted and comical, written in a way that suggests what happens in the character’s lives without them ever leaving the hair salon. This element keeps the play familiar, comfortable, and easy to let loose as an audience member. Attention to detail was also another mentionable element of the play.

 As the show progressed, pictures of get togethers, nights out, and family gatherings appeared in the shop as they began to grow closer. In addition, calendar dates changed to match the appropriate time, holding church meetings and hair appointments. Between the actresses, you could tell the character bond wasn’t all acting.

Before the show, the actresses didn’t know each other too well, but the play pulled them together through long practices and hanging out outside of rehearsal. Their relationship outside of theater made the chemistry between the girls on stage genuine, and it was easy to recognize that and feel it.

Overall, the show left the audience with a warm feeling and a sense of community, especially after Shelby’s passing which had brought everyone closer. Both shows complimented each other well, with Children of a Lesser God making you cry, and Steel Magnolias making you laugh. The Night of One Acts was a roller coaster of emotion and an incredible performance, and the amount of work put into it substantially shone through.

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