Raleigh Little Theatre's current production of Children of a Lesser God, which won the 1980 Tony® Award for best play, is a dramatic tour de force showcasing the considerable talents of guest director Sam Parker and actors Adam Gsegner and Whitney Griffin Boreiko. This bilingual masterpiece by two-time Tony winner Mark Medoff, who won his other best-play Tony in 1973 for When You Comin' Back, Red Ryder?, brilliantly mixes spoken English and American Sign Language to demonstrate the formidable wall of misunderstanding and miscommunication that all-too-frequently separates the world of the hearing from the world of the deaf.
Sam Parker, whose mother is deaf, stages Children of a Lesser God with special insight and empathy. He gets outstanding performances from each and every cast member.
Adam Gsegner and Whitney Griffin Boreiko, who play amiable speech therapist and prickly deaf-school dropout Sarah Norman, have great chemistry, which makes their unlikely romance and subsequent stormy marriage even more believable. James' disregard for decorum and the rules of the school for the deaf and Sarah's commitment to the deaf-rights movement put them on a collision course with the school's conservative director Mr. Franklin (played with spunk by David Coulter).
John Alexander is terrific as Orin Dennis, Sarah's sometimes abrasive friend and fellow activist; and Emilie Edwards provides comic relief as Lydia, an oversexed deaf student whose big crush on her new teacher, James Leeds, makes it difficult for him to maintain a proper student-teacher relationship with her.
Linda O'Day Young gives a touching performance as Mrs. Norman, Sarah's estranged mother, who tries her best, but can never quite connect with her rebellious and resentful daughter. And Missy Dapper contributes a nicely polished cameo as Ms. Klein, the crusading attorney whose well-meaning efforts to act on behalf of Sarah and Orin — in filing their suit accusing their school of discriminating against the deaf — initially do not take into account their desire to "speak" for themselves.
This crackerjack cast and director Sam Parker combine for a luminous staging of Children of a Lesser God. And the play's production team, which includes technical director and lighting designer Roger Bridges, set designer Rick Young, costume designer Sylvetta Harris, sound designer Haskell Fitz-Simons, American Sign Language consultant Ann Donnelly, company interpreters Jo Ann Miller-Kinsey and Karen Magoon, and performance interpreters Ann Meshaw Donnelly and Alexander B. McLinn, helps add sparkle to this dramatic gem.
Raleigh Little Theatre presents Children of a Lesser God Thursday-Saturday, Aug. 21-23 and 28-30, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Aug. 24 and 31, at 3 p.m. in RLT's Gaddy-Goodwin Teaching Theatre, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh, North Carolina. (NOTE 1: RLT is wheelchair accessible, and there will be sign-language interpretation and assistive-listening devices available at all performances. NOTE 2: RLT will provide audio description at the Aug. 24 matinee.) $13 ($11 students and seniors Aug. 24 and 31). 919/ 821-3111. http://www.raleighlittletheatre.org/child.htm [inactive 6/04].