Perhaps these detractors are focusing on moments like the one in which Amanda, Laura’s mother, tells her: “You’re not crippled. You just have a little defect — hardly noticeable, even!” How can such a line make sense when there’s a wheelchair onstage?
For one thing, this is a self-described “memory play,” told through the recollections of Laura’s brother, Tom (played by Joe Mantello). And memory is an interpretation of the past, not a literal playback of it.
But, more than that, to live with a child with a disability is to be both isolated — as this family is — and susceptible to what seems to others like an unreality. My own daughter, who has a serious disability called Rett syndrome, is just three years younger than the 23-year-old Laura. Is it easy for me to imagine a parent who sees a vastly different child than the outside world sees? You bet.
As for the charge of exploitation, I read that as, “It was unpleasant to see Ms. Ferris pull herself along the floor by her arms; I prefer that people with disabilities remain invisible, as they so often are.” Broadway audiences are accustomed to seeing perfect bodies doing entertaining dance steps. Guess what, Broadway? One in five Americans has a disability, according to the census bureau.
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