The depths of despair that drive someone to commit suicide must be overwhelming. But often it is the ones left behind, dealing with the aftermath, that are the most lost. Theater Breaking Through Barriers confronts these painful realities in Samuel D. Hunters’ new play, The Healing. This production has a raw honesty that is quietly compelling and utterly captivating.
What happens when four friends gather to pack up their deceased friends things after she has taken her own life? This is where the play begins and for the next 90 minutes we are all left to try to figure out just what led her to take her own life. We find out that Zoe, who just killed herself, is a Christian Scientist, who relies solely on her faith to heal her. She is also mentally unstable. often reporting hearing “angelic voices”. We soon learn that she has no real family, besides her four friends who bonded at a summer camp, that they attended while they were kids. They became friends because they all are disabled and therefore stuck with each other. However, all was not well at the camp A vicious woman named Joan ran the camp. Joan, a former Christian Scientist, abused the four by telling then such horrific things like if they prayed hard enough God would heal them of their disability. The four friends banded together and got the camp shut down.
The cast is well rounded ad each is strong in their own right. Shannon DeVido gives a stellar performance as Sharon. She is strong and fiery, yet vulnerable. She is clearly the leader of the group and her presence, to her credit, demands our attention. Mary Theresa Archbold offers some fine comic relief as Laura In a play about suicide, levity is needed and appreciated. Thankfully Archbold delivers some great comedy that breaks the tension. David Harrell does a fine job as Donald and offers consistent support to his cast mates. Jamie Petrone does a good job as Bonnie. Bonnie frequently puts her foot in her mouth and Petrone nails these times, which also provides some of the funnier moments.
My one slight issue with Hunters’ play is the ending moment. While I will not give away the ending, I will say that it doesn’t feel earned. As it is the play just ends and it is a bit unsettling. I hope that further revisions may provide fodder for a more satisfying finale.
That withstanding, The Healing is definitely a must see. We don’t get to see enough actors with disabilities on stage. But what’s remarkable is that their disabilities seem to fade away once the play starts and we are simply left with a group of talented actors taking us on a journey (just like in any other play). Simply, this is Off-Broadway at its finest!
The Healing plays now through July 16 at 410 W 42nd St. http://www.tbtb.org