by Tulis McCall

First of all: I am angry at myself for not getting to “All Of Me” – a phenomenal show – earlier.  Second of all WHY is this the first show that I have seen that is a Rom-Com about two disabled characters who use text-to- speech Augmentative and Alternative Communication devices to speak.

Third – do you even know what that last bit means?  I didn’t.  And I’m not certain I get the whole thing in spite of watching it being used for two hours.  Short version: both characters tablets that feature this AAC program.  These are attached to each person’s mobility aid.  Lucy (Madison Ferris) uses a motorized scooter and  Alfonso (Danny J. Gomez) uses a motorized wheelchair.  For conversation they type out their words that often use text prediction (similar to what happens in our email messages these days).  A computer generated voice says the words out loud.  You would think this a clumsy form of communication – but this play will convince you otherwise.

The story is out of the gate and charging up to the norther forty before we catch a breath.  Lucy spots Alfonso in the Outpatient parking lot of a hospital in Schenectady.  She sizes him up and then hits on him.  “Want to play a game?” she asks.  Alfonso is reluctant but proves to be every bit a match for Lucy.  It is a word game that ends up not where we expected.  They are both intrigued.

When Alfonso tells her he moved TO Schenectady from Manhattan, her first response is “To Schenectady!  Are you dying? Did someone die?” A few minutes later Lucy mentions “this fucking Stephen Hawking robot voice” used by her device – and then WE are intrigued.

Laura Winters has written a play that combines unexpected elements from every pocket of the imagination.  Drugs, sex and Rock ‘n’ Roll.  The sex scene between Lucy and Alfonso rivals the telephone scene from “It’s A Wonderful Life” and I am so not kidding.  There is family dysfunction on a grand scale for both Lucy and Alfonso.  The disappointments of living on disability benefits that pretty much block dreams of any kind of a future are laid out matter-of-factly.  The aim is not to garner pity for any character in the story.  The aim is to shine a light on lives about which we rarely think.

At the center of all the commotion – and there is plenty – is Lucy and Alfonso’s determination and dedication to one another.  No smooth sailing here.  These two are stubborn, smart, incisive and occasionally level headed.  They are surrounded by people who are more than a little lost. Lily Mae Harrington, Florencia Lozano, Brian Furey Morabito and Kyra Sedgwick are the perfect orbiting family members to challenge and deliver imperfect and sloppy love to these two.

Winters could have title this “The Combustibles” and not been far off the mark.  By calling it “All of Me” she reaches deeper than we expect.  This cast and director Ashley Brooke Monroe have delivered the goods.  This is a play that sneaks up on you over and over again.  This production shines.

Make a beeline for this one as it closes on June 16.

The New Group proudly presents All of Me, by Laura Winters, with Madison Ferris, Danny J. Gomez, Lily Mae Harrington, Florencia Lozano, Brian Furey Morabito and Kyra Sedgwick.

Co-Scenic Design by Brett Banakis andEdward T. Morris, Costume Design by Sarah LeFeber, Lighting Design by Reza Behjatand Sound Design by Matt Otto. Fight Director: Thomas Schall. Production Supervisor: Five Ohm. Accessibility & Disability Consultant: ConsultAbility. Production Accessibility Coordinator: Caitlin Cafiero. Casting Director is Judy Henderson, CSA.

The Pershing Square Signature Center (480 West 42nd St  ).  TICKETS HERE