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TRIBES Road Less Traveled Productions/RLTP Theater
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Mar 11, 2022, 16:01
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Through March 27
TRIBES Road Less Traveled Productions/RLTP Theatre

Family discord has been a fixture of theatre since it was being invented in classical Greece.
Of course, there were death penalties on stage, back then.
The details vary a lot, over time.
In Nina Raines’ “Tribes,” everyone has an assigned problem, mostly psychological like Daniel (Johnny Barden) and what seems to be schizophrenia or sister Ruth’s (Anna Krempholtz) impairing uncertainty about her future.
Dad Christopher (David Marciniak) is the usual bad dad of theater, a blowhard, poor father convinced he’s the best and knowimg all, so arguments should automatically be decided in his favor.
He’s apparently a former academic now writing successful self-help books.
Mom Beth (Margaret Massman) is the entertainment wife and mother, trying to keep everything calm, no matter the effect on herself.
The essentially different family member is son Billy (David Wantuck), hearing impaired and getting by with lip reading and good hearing aids.
The thread is Billy trying to develop a life, get a job, meet a girl, maybe get away from his family.
Once we learn how screwed up the family is, we get to see Billy finding love in Sylvia (Melinda Capeles), who is going deaf and is already a strong user of sign.
You can see this isn’t going to end well.
Billy and Sylvia start getting it on and move in together and he gets a job with the local police force lip-reading.
The family tries to say it’s being supportive but Billy demands to know if they are so supportive why can’t everyone sign to their hearing-impaired son.
The depths of his anger surface here, with Sylvia realizing how bad it is in a family which is barely civil at the dinner table.
In many ways, this play could have been about many different disabilities and how a family could handle them badly, as this one does.
Here, clearly, it’s about hearing.
Director Doug Zschiegner deliberately chose Wantuck, who is hearing impaired, for the role to bring depth to the role in an era where authenticity is important.
He’s good and his command of sign, along with Capales’ command makes many scenes work better, as the fingers and hands move swiftly to make the split in the characters very clear.
It’s a strong cast and Raines has a story to tell, a story probably applicable to many families dealing with disabilities, hopefully better than this family does and you must hope the disabled person makes a better choice than Billy does
Plays about the deaf aren’t common and I can only think of two, one done fairly frequently, Mark Medoff’s “Children of a Lesser God.”
There will be more, as there should be.
The biggest problem with “Tribes”</b is the family“Tribes” is worth seeing and pondering: do we treat those around us with problems very well? And, Would I stay with a family like this?

A.W.

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