Thursday, April 12, 2018

Broadway Theater Review: Children of a Lesser God TOP PICK

 Joshua Jackson, Anthony Edwards and Lauren Ridloff. Photo: Matthew Murphy
Children of a Lesser God
By Mark Medoff
Directed by Kenny Leon
Roundabout Theatre Company

By Lauren Yarger
The 2017-2018 season is shaping up to be remembered for its great play revivals, including the first of the 1980 Tony Award winner, Children of a Lesser God. Sharply directed by Kenny Leon, this play about the clash of hearing and non-hearing worlds is almost three hours of theater bliss at Studio 54.

Former Deaf Miss America Lauren Ridloff, who received a best-actress nomination last year in the Berkshires for her turn as Sarah Norman, reprises the role here opposite Joshua Jackson, star of TV's "The Affair," as James Leeds, whose recollection of events form the action of Children's story of how he met and fell in love with his speech therapy student.

At first, communication is difficult between the hearing teacher with "lazy" sign-language skills and the rebellious girl who doesn't like the idea that people think she isn't "normal" if she doesn't hear. She's sensitive about the subject -- her father abandoned her when he discovered she was deaf and she is estranged from her mother, (Kecia Lewis), who struggles with trying to be accepting while wanting what's best for her daughter-- which is not to be deaf, or at least to be able to function as best as she can in the hearing world.

When romance blooms for the couple, the two worlds are forced together. Sarah finds some contentment in marriage with James, but difficulties arise, especially when her husband reveals that he wouldn't be excited if their children were born deaf. Meanwhile, she can't share his profound love for music, for example. . .  so just how close can they be beyond sex? That connection was the basis for every relationship Sarah has had with hearing men.  It is one area where she can excel without needing to hear. . . But the physical can only provide temporary comfort to block out the emotional issues. For Sarah to effectively maneuver in James's world, she depends on his constant interpretation.

Orin Dennos (John McGinty), Sarah's long-time friend,  wants her to join him in his fight for deaf rights. Even their school, run by nerdy Mr. Franklin (Anthony Edwards in an impressive Broadway debut), discriminates and doesn't hire non-hearing teachers. A lawyer, Edna Klein (Julie Cerda), is brought in, but even that proves problematic as Klein feels she must speak for the deaf students rather than letting them speak for themselves. Treshelle Edmond rounds out the super cast as Lydia, another deaf student who would like to be romantically involved with James.

McGinty and Edmond speak as well as sign their dialogue, bringing into focus how isolated Sarah is. All of the spoken lines are projected via super titles incorporated into the minimal set design by Derek McLane, but when Sarah signs, there is no translation and we don't know what she is saying until James tells us.

Leon seamlessly fuses conversations taking place at different places to create an exquisite storytelling tableau (in my opinion, the best work to date from the Tony-Award-winning director. Look for another nomination here and for a Best-actress nomination for Ridloff as well.)

The story still is timely decades after the play's debut.

Children of a Lesser God makes us sit up and listen at Roundabout's Studio 54, 254 West 54th St., NYC.
Tickets:; 212-239-6200

Additional credits:
 Dede Ayite (costume design), Mike Baldassari (lighting design), Jill BC Du Boff (sound design), Branford Marsalis (original music), Alexandria Wailes (director of artistic sign language).

Closed captioning is available through the GalaPro app and American Sign Language interpreters will be present as select performances. For dates and to buy tickets to these select performances, visit

--God's name taken in vain
--Brief nudity

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play concept, "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York. Shifting from reviewing to producing, Yarger owns Gracewell Productions, which produced the Table Reading Series at the Palace Theater in Waterbury, CT. She trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Intensive and other training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run. She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She wrote reviews of Broadway and Off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She was a contributing editor for She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women. She is a former vice president and voting member of The Drama Desk.

She is a freelance writer and playwright (member Dramatists Guild of America). She is a member if the The Outer Critics Circle (producer of the annual awards ceremony) and a member of The League of Professional Theatre Women, serving as Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter. Yarger was a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2024 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women or people of a certain race are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide, or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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