Spotlight: World Wide Church of the Handicapped

Rich Ryan

We're all misfits in our fashion, whether we admit it or not, and Interact Center's World Wide Church of the Handicapped vividly expresses the notion. Written by John Francis Bueche, the show revolves around a motley bunch of pub patrons (portrayed by actors both disabled and "normal," as described by the program notes) and a leprous dwarf (Mark Parr) who appears at regular intervals to dispense elliptical and allegorical ravings about the conditions that afflict us all. The play's fulcrum, a pair of burned-out social workers named Vange (Amy Salloway) and Marty (played in the weekend matinee I attended by understudy Phil Epstein, who, despite a couple of line-reading glitches, soulfully captured his barely-hanging-on character), deal with troubles of their own, not the least of which is Marty's pathological aversion to dwarves. Soon the dialogue turns to acrimonious barbs, as the brain-injury victims snub the Down syndrome kids, and a prejudice is revealed between those capable of powering their wheelchairs and those who need motors. The point is well taken: Humans create status rankings no matter the circumstances. But Parr's bar-top diatribes take matters a step further when he questions whether they (and the audience) will respond by creating the "bars of a prison" or a "glorious prism." The question is, do we have the strength to face our own weaknesses and deficiencies, however large or small, with unflinching truth and realistic acceptance? With a script that embraces all the "rudely stamped" (in a monologue lifted from Richard III), this oft-ragged production homes in on ideas deeper than you'll find in most better-stamped works.

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