nytheatre.com review by Fred Backus
Broken Things by Veva Dianne Lawson invites the audience to
see the world through the eyes of Adam, a young adult living
with the developmental disorder of autism. Surprisingly,
Broken Things appears to cast the neurological disorder in
terms of a physical disorder, separating the main character into
two roles, that of the mind and the mute body of Adam.
August 15, 2003
Both Colin Clarke as Adam’s mind and Yvonnick Muller as his body do an admirable job given the choices made in this production. In particular, Muller’s beautiful and subtle physical work is impressive to watch. But I found the use of the convention puzzling. Adam rails against his body for his disorder, yet Clarke’s portrayal of Adam as separated from his body retains fully the characteristics of autism. If the autistic mind of Adam is deluded in blaming his body, then it is a theme that remains unexamined in this story. If we are to infer that autism should indeed be seen as a prison of the body, then even more of an explanation is called for. Rather than illuminating the disorder, one is left with even more questions. How much Adam is actually able to express his emotions to the outside world remains unclear. One is not even sure whether Adam can speak at all, or to what extent.
Nor do the supporting roles offer much insight. The persevering mother, the protective brother, and the father running off to a younger woman in a midlife crisis are all stock characters to one degree or another. And while supposedly portraying the world as seen through Adam’s eyes, Broken Things comes off as more of an apology and explanation for the family’s final decision. We are led to believe that they have learned much from their trial, yet what that lesson is remains unclear. When Adam’s brother David (Daniel Stessen) tells his mother Ellen (Deborah Honsaker) that Adam is actually the happy one, one must question whether they know Adam any better than we do. Adam’s life, at least as presented here, is bleak and frightening, giving one the feeling that autism is indeed a horrible curse, and allowing very little to hope for in terms of Adam’s future happiness or self-fulfillment.