“Safekeeping” Reading and Safety in Numbers

Photo by Nile Scott Shots

Photo by Nile Scott Shots.

Presented by The Accessible Theatre
by Rob Zellers
Directed by Adam Sanders

Nov. 3, 2014 at 7:30PM
Central Square Theater
450 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
Accessible Theatre on Facebook

Disclaimer: This production included Queen Geek, Kitty Drexel in its cast. For this reason, this review is tempered to accommodate the NETG reviewing policy on Geek performance involvement.

Review by Gillian Daniels
(Cambridge, MA) Joe (Felix Teich) is an artist who creates complex dioramas and a loving and temperamental caretaker of his brother, sixteen-year old Robert (Elliott Purcell).  Due to his cerebral palsy, Robert spends his days bound to their run-down apartment, watching soap operas.  The Accessible Theatre brings us a reading of a play about brothers who have built their own world, insulated from the impoverished, drug-addled reality of their Ohio city.  As with many stories, the status quo is disrupted when a woman, social worker Marianne (Rachel Sacks), walks into their lives.  Her intrusion is a benevolent one, however, an attempt to confirm Robert is getting the help he needs.

With the New England Theatre Geek’s own Kitty Drexel acting as the reader Monday evening, I came to better understand what Accessible Theatre is after.  It looks to make sure plays about people with disabilities are brought to the stage with humanity and realism.  Robert isn’t cast as the tragic “burden to bare” for Joe but as a young man trying to overcome very real difficulties.  He has his own interests and desires (as the copies of “Hustler” around their apartment attest), whatever the limitations of his body.
The play had an engaging talk-back session afterward in which director Adam Sanders, writer Rob Zellers, and stage manager Lindsay G. took questions.  They spoke of their continued revisions of the play, the balance between making sure Joe was characterized as a misanthrope without overdoing his temper, and the way in which Marianne is allowed her own space to be flawed.  Her professional goal is to improve the conditions of both men; her personal goals belong to herself.
As in the reading of Liana Asim’s Abraham Lincoln-centric Bedfellows from Fresh Ink Theatre this past September, Zellers spoke of the play as an evolving project.  This is not a static piece of art due to the fact it’s unfinished.  There are moments of melodrama he appeared to wish to change and themes he looked to clarify.  It’s difficult to describe a play not yet fully produced, but I enjoy readings like this one and hope there are more from both Fresh Ink and Accessible Theatre in the future.
As the revision process continues, I hope audience suggestions made Monday for a “Hollywood ending” are disregarded.  This play largely works due to its raw, emotional nature and the uncomfortable humor it draws from circumstances beyond anyone’s control and a potentially co-dependent relationship.  It feels rough, though whether that’s due to the fact it’s not yet produced or the need of a next draft awaits to be seen.
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