Listen...Can You Hear Me Now?
nytheatre.com review by Erin Layton
August 10, 2013
A scene from Listen...Can you Hear Me Now?
The path to finding one’s voice is rarely easy especially when the adults who brought you into the world dictate the exact moments of when, how or if you should speak. Such is the case with Gloria Rosen’s touching and heartfelt one person show, Listen...Can You Hear Me Now - an autobiographical telling of her upbringing with two deaf parents.
Since childhood Gloria and her older brother, neither of whom were born deaf, were assigned to act as translators and interpreters for their parents. Gloria bore the brunt of the translation work since it was determined early on that her dutiful role as daughter was to stay at home and take care of the family. Gloria describes her life as a hearing child in a deaf home as a war zone, always on alert for catastrophes involving consistently ringing phones, banging radiators, flashing lights, close-flying planes and loud raps on the door. When Gloria was a crying infant she recalls grabbing her mother’s face with her two small hands and looking at her straight in the eyes in order to communicate with her, a tactic that she still utilizes with people to this day, whether hearing or deaf. As a child and into her teenage years, Gloria was assigned to translate everything for her parents from urgent work-related calls for her father to funny television shows - even lip syncing famous show tunes for her mother’s enjoyment. If she laughed, drank or ate when her parents wanted her to translate she would be scolded so, she would often go to her room and hide under the covers with a book or if that didn’t work, she would sneak off to a dark movie theater and chase down mouthfuls of candy with root beer floats and laugh to her heart’s content since her parents weren’t around to stop her. If she ever complained about anything her mother would remind her that she could hear so she had nothing to complain about. Even though her parents were openly critical of the hearing world, even going so far as to say that “hearing people are stupid”, they came to depend on Gloria for their very survival and connection to the outside world well into her adult years.
Gloria is a delightful performer and storyteller. She opens up the door to her past and invites her audience on a personal and intimate journey with comical, heartwarming and sometimes upsetting tales of growing up with two parents who couldn’t “listen”. I found that some of the more refreshing moments of Gloria’s performance happen when she comes into her own as an independent adult and is able to fully explore the playfulness and rebellion that she was so frequently denied as a child.
Michael Leoni’s inventive staging keep the piece moving at a steady and clear pace as it shifts through the many stages and transitions of time and character. The piece never remains stagnant, much like Gloria’s life.
I applaud Gloria’s courage for sharing her beautiful story and for not denying the life experiences and people who shaped the unique voice and woman that she is today.