Gork! The retard always wins
nytheatre.com review by Amy Rhodes
August 15, 2004
It is obvious that Autumn Terrill has a genuine affection for retards. In her one-woman show, GORK! The Retard Always Wins, Terrill uses humor to demystify the world of the developmentally disabled. In doing so, she encourages the audience to laugh with, not at, a group of people who are often looked at as a diagnosis rather than as human beings.
In GORK!, Terrill examines the life of her younger brother, Adam. Adam’s autism, hyperactivity, and mental retardation make him an interesting addition to the Terrill household. At times he is unruly and unreasonable. Other times Adam is the sole voice of reason in this offbeat Iowa family.
Through a series of anecdotes, a portrait of Adam emerges as someone who rejects the notion that he is disabled and instead sees himself as a unique individual. Yet, Adam’s brand of ingenuity takes its toll on the seven-member Terrill family, often leaving them wondering whether they should laugh or cry. It is Adam who, in difficult times, uses wit and honesty to help them choose laughter.
In telling Adam’s story, Terrill transforms into various characters. She easily becomes her parents, Adam’s doctor, even Adam, through simple voice affectations and physical gestures. As a performer she has boundless, vibrant energy. Dean Strober is the director.
GORK! is, at its core, a love story. Both hilarious and moving, the show is a tribute to Adam, and all that he has to offer. It is also pays homage to the family who embraced him for who he is.
At the show’s end, a video clip of the real Adam shows him enthusiastically twirling a flag on a football field. The camera pans out to reveal that Adam is alone, performing for no one. Yet, after listening to his sister talk about him for an hour, you can’t help but feel like you know Adam Terrill, and like you are there, in the stands, cheering him on.