Running since March 2018 Joshua Jackson stars in a revival of the Tony-winning play that explores the relationship between an unorthodox speech therapist and one of his students, a young deaf woman hesitant to integrate herself into the hearing world.
The Broadway production of Children of a Lesser God closed May 27, 2018. For current Broadway show listings and tickets, please click here.
From the producers: Stop assuming. Stop judging. Start listening. Winner of the Tony, Drama Desk, and Olivier Awards for Best Play, "Children of a Lesser God" tells the story of an unconventional teacher at a school for the deaf and the remarkable woman he meets there. As their relationship heats up, so does their need for control, igniting a thrilling exploration of passion, intimacy, and connection.
Following a highly successful run at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, "Children of a Lesser God" first opened on Broadway in March 1980 Longacre Theatre, where it ran for 887 performances. The production won 3 Tony awards, including Best Play. The play was adapted into a 1986 film starring Marlee Matlin (in an Oscar-winning performance) and William Hurt, receiving five Academy Award nominations. It was also the first ever female-helmed film to be nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Picture category.
Tony-winner Kenny Leon ("A Raisin in the Sun," "Fences") directs a cast that includes Joshua Jackson ("Dawson's Creek," "The Affair"), Lauren Ridloff ("Wonderstruck") and Emmy and Golden Globe Award winner Anthony Edwards ("ER," "Top Gun"). Drama Desk nominee Kecia Lewis ("Dessa Rose"), Julee Cerda, Treshelle Edmond, and John McGinty round out the cast.
[The] show is at times inaccessible or awkward for the hearing - which is maybe the most thematically resonant technical flaw ever to afflict a play. Leon's direction leans into the play's age as well as its loose plotting. And yet [the] chemistry is undeniable. Ridloff is not only a great silent actress but also a fantastic flirt. Jackson has to work a little harder (mostly with success) to expose the tender heart of a character with more contradictions. Logistical concerns vanish in the play's best moments.
[The play] struggles at times to relay a clear message of its own. [Jackson's] efforts pay off for the most part; his performance loosens as it goes and is especially noteworthy in the second act. Ridloff, however, is downright powerful from the moment she signs her first sentence. The presence of technology and the stark, modern set may confuse some...the most lasting impression of the show is its two standout performances instead.
Dreary...the production tips the balance away from the author's sensitive handling of deaf politics toward the bland reaffirmation that the heart is a more powerful communication tool than the human voice. If that sounds like the melodramatic fodder of a vintage Lifetime movie, you got it. Leon's sluggish production does eventually gather some steam in the second act...the production has an asset in Ridloff, who is an impressive natural on the stage.... a play that has not withstood the test of time.
New York Daily News
Only fitfully engaging and stirring...the revival reminds that the play paints a portrait of a woman who refuses to be molded and insists on agency - an idea that couldn't be timelier. On the other hand, Medoff's script can be simplistic and preachy. Director Leon's stark and chilly production actually doesn't nurture intimacy. Jackson's demanding star turn is hit-and-miss. Ridloff, a wonderfully expressive actress, provides the show with its vibrant beating heart...and leaves a lasting impression.
New York Times
A mixed bag...today [the play's] dramaturgy seems creaky, even when the argument is crackling. A knockout professional debut performance by Ridloff...a lovely performance by Jackson...but the uncharacteristically cheap-looking set does nothing to help us contextualize the story. Conversely, the choice of music contextualizes it too much...as to undercut its seriousness and timeliness. The play falters badly in its second act, ginning up all sorts of spurious conflict to fill time.
Compelling...the drama's impact remains...Ridloff plays Sarah with a don't-mess-with-me vengeance, careful to not let vulnerabilities sneak through. Jackson is solid as James, speaking his own lines and interpreting for Sarah, while portraying his frustration at her unwillingness to even try to talk. Anthony Edwards adds another voice to the mix, giving a studied portrayal of the head teacher who stirs the pot. Let's listen to what Sarah - and Ridloff - have to say. And hear them.
The play still resonates, but the production is flawed. The central message, concerning the bridge that divides the hearing world from the deaf, is compelling. But director Kenny Leon's staging is poorly paced on that mostly bare stage and the overall effect is rather static. The emotional dynamic seems off. That is in no way a criticism of the performances, though. Lauren Ridloff's talent is stunning...great work from Joshua Jackson. Time has not been kind to this Tony-winning drama.
Time Out New York
Maddeningly heavy-handed...some of the problems are structural. But a larger problem is tonal. A different production might have hidden these failings or even jujitsu-ed them into virtues. But Leon's revival, broad and ungainly, exacerbates them. Jackson's nice-guy predator is aggressively genial and callow...the supporting actors play single notes relentlessly. The only saving grace is the sparky, expressive and moving Ridloff. She is a wonder; the rest is mostly unspeakable.
Ridloff is a stunning performer...[but] the "cute" banter is unspeakably banal, and if it weren't for the political conflict embedded in the text, we'd be itching with boredom. It does seem as if this existential conflict between the speaking world and the silent world was portrayed more forcefully in the original production. In this revival, the argument doesn't really surface until the end of the play. Lacking that solid thematic foundation, Medoff's play deflates into just another romantic drama.