“Dancing Lessons” is so heartwarmingly funny and sweet, it’s the perfect entertainment for this holiday. The newest play written by Mark St. Germain hits all the heartstrings, and The Red Barn Theatre has reached a high note tackling this production directed by Joy Hawkins and delightfully acted by Carolyn Cooper and Dave Bootle.
“Are we capable of change?” asks character Ever Montgomery, summarizing the journey of this mismatched, afflicted couple facing their insurmountable odds.
The story is an unusual one, about an injured dancer, Senga Quinn, played by Cooper, and an autistic professor, Ever Montgomery, played by Bootle. The two are neighbors in New York City. Ever suffers from Asperger’s, a form of autism, and must attend a banquet to receive an award. All social interaction is downright painful for him, so he is willing to pay an absurd sum for a one-hour dance lesson with his famed neighbor Senga, the beautiful but bitter dancer. Crippled and in a cast due to an accident, Senga may never dance again and is holed up in her apartment, living on pills, booze and junk food. The unlikely duo clumsily strike up a relationship that is awkward, charming and inspirational.
Bootle has all the best comedic moments, as Ever’s autism allows him to say whatever he is thinking with deadpan wit – when he meets Senga, looking around her apartment, he asks, “Did I interrupt a suicide attempt?” Bootle’s characterization of an autistic is sophisticated and respectfully adds physical comedy to the mix. So suspenseful was the moment Ever allows Senga to touch and even kiss him, not a sound could be heard from the audience.
The play also becomes a lesson in the sincere challenges facing people with autism compared with what Ever funnily refers to as “neurotypicals.” Cooper’s acting portrays a delicate ease and gentleness that is an engaging match.
“Couldn’t be happier with these two people on stage,” said director Hawkins. It’s refreshing how the characters have so little pity for each other and somehow become the odd couple of romance. Filled with honest moments and well-timed one liners, the play is a delight.
Thru Jan. 13, 2018
Red Barn Theatre
Tickets on sale redbarntheatre.com