Friday, April 21, 2017

Review: A Sensitive Story About A Traumatized Child

By Ed Malin

Rising Sun Performance Company begins its 16th season with Child’s Play, written by Kevin D. Ferguson and directed by Brock Harris Hill. Vera, a child psychologist (Crystal Edn) frames the story with a TED Talk which she is delivering after the events we see on stage.  Vera has worked with a ten year-old girl named Cindy (Raiane Cantisano) who suddenly stopped using words to communicate.  Saddened by their daughter’s silence, Cindy’s strong-willed mother (Mercedes Vasquez) and gentle step-father (Michael Pichardo) have sought out Vera’s help.  Vera is able to talk to Cindy and get nods and other non-verbal responses.  Also, Cindy uses action toys to tell the story of a princess whose parents stifle her ambition of fighting a dragon; that is, until she gets help from a warrior.  These clue-filled episodes are performed on a human scale by Christian Victoria Allen, Ashleigh Herndon, Katie Lynn Esswein and Ronald Kitts.   Vera has some meeting with Cindy’s mother and step-father, where she learns that Cindy’s mother keeps insisting that everything was fine in their house up until Cindy stopped talking.  However, Cindy’s step-father has a different point of view.  He says that, during the years he spent living with Cindy’s mother before they got married, his bride’s parents were cold to him.  What happened when Cindy went to her grandparents’ house for the duration of her mother and step-father’s honeymoon?  Who is the dragon who has caused so much suffering to several of the characters?  When Cindy tells you, you may find yourself crying.
photo by N-K Photography
Raiane Cantisano’s performance as Cindy and her transformation from tortured girl to triumphant young person in control of herself is worth watching.  Mercedes Vasquez gives a dynamite performance as a very strong woman who is shutting out her family while she continues to overcome much bad karma.  It is really a triumph to see the patient, nurturing Crystal Edn and the empowered Cindy finally get Cindy’s mother to listen to them.  Director Brock Harris Hill helps us get into the characters’ heads so we can confront the sensitive, unpleasant truth.   This happens at a decent pace, never boring, always making me want to embrace the evolving complexity of the story.  I am still not clear whether events such as these could be discussed in such identifying detail in a TED Talk, nor whether a young person in shock can recover quite so quickly, but the rest of the story is very moving and well-acted.