by Roseann Cane
With its world premiere production of All of Me, written by Laura Winters, Barrington Stage Company presents a romantic boy-meets-girl coming-of-age story unlike any play I’ve ever seen, and, I believe, one that’s long overdue. You see, boy uses wheelchair, girl uses scooter, and both use text-to-speech technology to communicate. (Text-to-speech technology is known by the acronym AAC, which stands for alternative and augmentative communication. AAC can refer to any method of communicating that isn’t spoken language. To learn more, click HERE.)
The aforementioned girl, Lucy, is played by the beautiful and hilarious Madison Ferris. Ferris, you may remember, made history as the first wheelchair user to play a leading role on Broadway, as Laura Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie a few years back. The boy, Alfonso, is the captivating, sensitive, and forthright Danny J. Gomez.
Among the many reasons I found this play so satisfying is its penchant for tackling not only the inequities our culture imposes on those who are disabled, but the classism, social and economic, that shapes all our lives. Lucy’s family has a modest home in Schenectady. Lucy depends on Medicaid, which limits the costly devices, like well-constructed ramps and wider doorways, that would make her daily life less of a struggle. She lives with her mother, Connie, played by Leah Hocking in a bravura, crackling performance. Connie’s frustrations with a variety of low-wage jobs is no less painful than her self-sabotaging refusal to tend to her own physical disability, an excruciating back injury that continues to worsen. Connie shoulders responsibility not only for Lucy, but two other household members, her older daughter, Jackie (Alexandra Seal) and her soon-to-be son in law, Moose (Jack Fellows). Jackie and Moose may appear physically strong and dynamic, but their lives are steeped in delusion and denial, with Moose always waiting to win that jackpot that will make him rich, and Jackie always forgiving and enabling him. Seal and Fellows are superb, sympathetic as they are exasperating; they make excellent foils for each other, and their magnetism is unwavering even when they’re at their worst.
Alfonso’s upbringing could barely be more different from Lucy’s. Highly educated and worldly, he temporarily lives with his mother, Elena (Maggie Bofill), a cultured Manhattan-based attorney who is helping Alfonso settle into his tasteful, elegant apartment, where he has relocated to begin a career in public health. Bofill is pitch-perfect as Elena very cordially–and patronizingly–tries to relate to Connie. In fact, Bofill is pitch-perfect as the exceedingly nice upper-crust woman who needs to appear to always do the right thing.
While tackling some challenging problems, All of Me manages to be uproariously funny. Ashley Brooke Monroe seamlessly directs this top-drawer cast through myriad scenes at a lively pace. Brian Prather’s splendidly designed sets capture the disparity between the two families, as well as some surprising yet inevitable connections.
Sarah LeFeber’s costumes, widely ranging from casual to wedding-party formal, are wonderfully on target for each character. Miriam Nilofa Crowe’s lighting design and Matt Otto’s sound design masterfully reinforce and complement this fine piece of work.
Laura Winters’ script, a winner of the Bonnie & Terry Burman New Play Award, and part of the Julianne Boyd New Works Fund, raised my awareness and left me brimming with hope. According to material provided by Barrington Stage, about one in five humans is disabled, yet stage and screen representation of disabled people is but a fraction of a percent. Kudos to Barrington Stage, Julianne Boyd, and everyone associated with All of Me for driving home that realization, and for representing a significant part of our population that has too long been ignored, and for the gift of a wonderful evening of theater.
All of Me, by Laura Winters, directed by Ashley Brooke Monroe, runs through October 9, 2022, at the Boyd-Quinson Stage at Barrington Stage Company, 30 Union Street, Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Tickets are $25 to $59 and can be purchased by calling 413-236-8888 or visiting barringtonstageco.org/Tickets. CAST: Madison Ferris as Lucy, Danny J. Gomez as Alfonso, Leah Hocking as Connie, Alexandra Seal as Jackie, Jack Fellows as Moose, Maggie Bofill as Elena. Set design by Brian Prather, costume design by Sarah LeFeber, lighting design by Miriam Nilofa Crowe, sound design by Matt Otto, accessibility consultant & assistant sound designer Caitlin Cafiero, stage manager Jason Brouillard, assistant stage manager Quinn O’Connor.