×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Off Broadway Review: Samuel D. Hunter’s ‘The Healing’

With:
Mary Theresa Archbold, Shannon DeVido, David Harrell, Lynne Lipton, John McGinty, Jamie Petrone, Pamela Sabaugh.

“The Healing,” the new play by MacArthur Foundation genius grant winner Samuel D. Hunter, was written specifically for Theater Breaking Through Barriers, a company of disabled actors who really lucked out with this smart and sensitive piece about the harm done to vulnerable people in the name of religion. The playwright dealt with the same theme — the dangers of religious mania — in “The Whale,” but the cruelty seems more heartless when the victims are so young.

Shannon DeVido and David Harrell give impressive performances as Sharon and Donald, mourners who have traveled to a small town near Idaho Falls to attend their friend Zoe’s funeral and stayed behind to clean out her cluttered home. (Shout-out to props designer Charles Bowden for the hoarders’ heaven of Disney character figurines, porcelain angels, ceramic frogs and all the unopened packages containing more of the same.)

Sharon and Donald, who haven’t seen one another for some time, are making desultory conversation while watching the Shopping Channel, not from any acquisitive urge but because they’ve lost the remote. The aimless dialogue Hunter has written is pitch-perfect for this languid moment of weary exhaustion.

Donald idly wonders about the unknown woman who wore a red pantsuit to the services. “Who wears a red pantsuit to a funeral ?” he wants to know. Sharon, who’s been handling “all this funeral crap” for the past three days, and paying for it, too, presses an unimportant point about the difference between a casket and a coffin.

Popular on Variety

The matter of the conversation is meaningless, even amusing. But the interplay between DeVido and Harrell captures the tone of those dead spaces when people have nothing to say to one another, but don’t want to be alone. And whenever Hunter allows his characters to reveal something of themselves, the actors make these shifts with smooth subtlety.

One thing we learn is that Donald is the sensitive one, surprised and saddened to learn that Zoe, who seems to have committed suicide, had no family and few friends in town. It’s also clear that Sharon, a successful entrepreneur with control issues, is seething with suppressed rage. A wheelchair user with a spinal condition, she’s both furious and humiliated when she has trouble finding an aide to fly home with her.

But her anger goes deeper than that, and when other friends arrive at Zoe’s place and pick up the conversation, it becomes clear what’s holding them together. Each of them is disabled in one way or another, and as children they spent summers at a Christian camp. After years of listening to the zealous Christian Scientist woman who ran the camp “telling all of us that if we prayed hard enough, Jesus would heal our broken little bodies,” the poor kids came away brainwashed.

There’s more to the plot — including some heart-to-heart scenes between the troubled Sharon and Zoe’s ghost. And although he tends to dry up when switching from two-character scenes to “crowd” scenes of three or more, Hunter keeps us involved in the confessional material. Unfortunately, the storytelling drags under Stella Powell-Jones’ plodding direction — although to be fair, the stage is a bit small to handle two wheelchairs, and that full-sized couch planted dead-center doesn’t help the stage traffic.

Off Broadway Review: Samuel D. Hunter's 'The Healing'

Clurman Theater; 99 seats; $55 top. Opened June 22, 2016. Reviewed June 17. Running time: ONE HOUR, 30 MIN.

Production: A production by Theater Breaking Through Barriers of a play in one act by Samuel D. Hunter.

Creative: Directed by Stella Powell-Jones. Set, Jason Simms; costumes, Christopher Metzger; lighting, Alejandro Fajardo; sound, Brandon Wolcott; props, Charles Bowden; dramaturg, John M. Baker; production stage manager, Anne Huston.

Cast: Mary Theresa Archbold, Shannon DeVido, David Harrell, Lynne Lipton, John McGinty, Jamie Petrone, Pamela Sabaugh.

More Legit

  • Jagged Little Pill review

    Broadway Review: 'Jagged Little Pill'

    Nearly 25 years after “Jagged Little Pill” hit the shelves of record stores, Alanis Morissette’s innovative 1995 album has arrived on Broadway under the muscular direction of Diane Paulus, who launched this galvanic production at the American Repertory Theater. The show’s supportive book by screenwriter Diablo Cody interprets Morissette’s musical idiom as a universal domestic [...]

  • Claire Warden

    Listen: Let's Talk About Sex Onstage

    The craft of intimacy direction is taking Broadway by storm — and on the latest episode of Variety’s Stagecraft, Broadway’s first intimacy director explains why, and breaks down the ways in which she’s helping to revolutionize how actors get intimate onstage. Listen to this week’s podcast below: Warden, whose credits this season include “Jagged Little [...]

  • Dan Stevens

    Mark Addy, Dan Stevens Head Broadway Cast of 'Hangmen'

    Mark Addy and Dan Stevens will appear in the Broadway premiere of Martin McDonagh’s “Hangmen.” Addy, best known for his work on “Game of Thrones” and “The Full Monty,” starred in the off-Broadway production of the black comedy. It’s the first time Stevens, beloved for his turn on “Downton Abbey,” has appeared on the Great [...]

  • Dear Evan Hansen Jordan Fisher

    Jordan Fisher Joins 'Dear Evan Hansen' in Title Role on Broadway

    Jordan Fisher will be Broadway’s next Evan Hansen, joining the cast of “Dear Evan Hansen” in the musical’s title role. Fisher, best known to theater enthusiasts for his stint in “Hamilton” and playing Mark Cohen in Fox’s “Rent: Live,” will play the role for a limited 16-week engagement starting Jan. 28. “Evan Hansen is a [...]

  • SUBJECTS] seen at the Lincoln Center

    Lincoln Center's David Geffen Hall Set for Major Renovation

    Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall is set to undergo a major renovation that will lead to the facility being closed for months-long stretches starting in 2022. Lincoln Center and the New York Philharmonic announced Monday that the overhaul will require the temporary shuttering of Geffen Hall from May 2022 through October 2022 and again from [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content