By Claudia Spadafora
Published July 27, 2018
Superman and Skinny Dan and Bird Boy
Superman and Skinny Dan and Bird Boy was the New Play Contest winner this year, and with good reason. It is a masterclass in character development, as the writing of Rex Emerson Jackson brings Jeremy, an actor-aspiring autistic man, to life with only a music stand and a rotating cast of one to play the role.
The words leap off the page and paint a clear picture of who this person is, but it is done with an economy of language, so it never feels particularly flowery or overdone - just honest.
In fact, honesty is a unifier across the journey of this play; it is honesty when Jeremy misinterprets a situation, it is honesty when the people around him are not understanding, and it is, devastatingly, honesty that lands Jeremy in the horrible spot we find him in the piece.
It is also honesty that guided the solo performance by Mike Rinaldi, who gave Jeremy a child-like sincerity coupled with a gripping fierceness and sense of self-advocacy. Despite the lack of staging, and what must have been a short rehearsal time for these actors (as Emerson Jackson was set to play the role until recently), Jeremy is fully realized from moment one.
Superman and Skinny Dan and Bird Boy is not preachy or obvious in its message. It is a rich story featuring an autistic perspective, and while it centres on the differences Jeremy navigates as a neuro-divergent person (an important centreing that protests the toxic pushing of autistic stories to the margins), it is the details surrounding that centrepiece that make Superman and Skinny Dan and Bird Boy particularly effective.
Seeds of sub-plots are planted and nursed and grow slowly, never being wrapped up neatly but always paying off in an unexpected and subtle way. There are moments of humour, moments of disgust, heartbreak, anger, and love. Superman and Skinny Dan and Bird Boy is a testament to the power of words- the right words.
Be sure to catch Superman and Skinny Dan and Bird Boy at Mills Hardware on Friday at 9:30 PM, Saturday at 5:00 PM, or Sunday at 12:00 PM.
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