By David Walters
One of The Public Theater’s initiatives is to make a home for everyone. Dark Disabled Stories, a one-person show that isn’t, as it’s so much more, is proudly on display as fulfilling that initiative in spades. What it in turn will fulfill for you is a change in how you view your world as it’s a front-row seat into the life of disabled writer/actor Ryan J. Haddad.
Ryan has had cerebral palsy his whole life and these are his stories about how he deals with moving through his world and the obstacles, cracks in the sidewalk, and non-understanding people he comes in contact with. What he has figured out, pretty much, is how to move through it all with a strong sense of humor, experiencing the pain but laughing at his foibles. What he does know that experience has taught him is that he can’t do it alone.
Wholeheartedly embracing accessible theater on a Benjamin Moore Island Sunset Pink set, he is joined on stage by fellow disabled actors Alejandra Ospina as the Describer, verbally painting what we see on stage, and Dickie Hearts as Ryan performing right alongside Ryan (“I will be playing “Ryan” alongside Ryan, who will also be playing “Ryan.”) acting through sign language. What’s important here is that neither Alejandra nor Dickie are onstage in a limited sense to only help blind or deaf audience members experience the show, they are there for all of us as they are part of the action and structure of the play having been incorporated into the piece from its inception. Their presence and acting talents bring a greater depth to Ryan’s story.
What this is, is an unheard of three-handed one-person show, a personal revelatory piece of on-stage art that reveals the depth of humanity in all of us.
The play is a compilation of humorous and honest stories about constantly confronting an obstacle, both physical and emotional, in a world not built to accommodate who you are. There is a strong feeling permeating Ryan’s journey of wanting to be accepted as he is (one not any different than you and I have) stating strongly that he “Doesn’t need to be fixed or cured!”
Ryan asks us all to laugh with him as he stumbles through life and relationships. His self-deprecating, self-conscious vulnerability immediately draws you in and allows for an understanding connection even during the cringe-worthy moments of his stories.
It was sold out the night I was there, so get your ticket soon.
Director of Artistic Sign Language (DASL) is a creative position supporting artistic storytelling through the Deaf and sign language lens. The DASL collaboratively works with the director, creative team members, and actors to translate the text between ASL and English and imbue the Deaf experience within the storytelling.
Scenic and sound design, Dots, Lighting design, Dona Curley, Sound design, Kathy Ruvuna, Video design Kameron Neal.
Running time: approximately 75 minutes.
This production includes sexually explicit language, profanity, and depictions of ableist language.
As always, this is just one person’s opinion in a world filled with them.