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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    UA grad shines in ‘Miracles’

    The opening minutes of “”Miracles,”” the newest production at the Invisible Theatre, appear to channel “”The Miracle Worker.””

    Eve Hudson, an autistic 17-year-old, has been in the care of autism specialist Kate Kingsley long enough to respond to verbal cues and communicate through a keyboard, so long as someone helps steady her trembling fingers. Not only can she type yes and no, and make glib talk about the weather, with Kingsley’s help, she is about to create her own collection of inspirational poetry. This baffles her father, Tom, who has buried himself in his law firm in the years following his wife’s death and his seemingly hopeless daughter was shipped off to a suite of specialist schools. There is something suspicious about a girl whose chief mode of communication is a Shamu puppet suddenly becoming a literary superstar. Might Ms. Kingsley be working some Ouija board magic?

    The miracle work at hand seems to be of a spiritual nature; how will Tom, a lonely, loveless, ex-hippie workaholic lawyer, learn to trust Kingsley’s teaching and accept that his daughter has become a person with talents and dreams of her own?

    The early expectation is that Tom will fall in love with Kingsley, and they will tour the world with Eve to push her poems and spread hope to the “”no ones”” to whom Eve dedicates her book. But by the end of act one, this expectation comes crashing down like a killer whale belly flop.

    And that’s for the best. As an inspirational romantic comedy, “”Miracles”” could not deliver any of the dismal truth about Eve’s situation that it does. The Invisible Theatre bills it instead as an “”evocative drama,”” and what it evokes is a lone nugget of optimism amidst a mother lode of misfortune.

    The Invisible Theatre always does an impressive job of building convincing worlds in limited spaces. “”Miracles”” is confined to Kingsley’s classroom in a private institution in the Berkshire Mountains, and the set is densely dressed. A classroom bursting with color contrasts Tom Hudson’s drab, dressed-down life. Pastel puzzle-piece wall runners reflect the rainbow butterfly wings of Eve’s artwork hung around the room, and even the checkered layers of color on Ms. Kingsley’s wool socks. Time in the play is confined to a two-day span, which is marked by shifting lights on the autumn leaves visible through the tiny window above Ms. Kingsley’s bright-red piano.

    But the draw of “”Miracles”” is undoubtedly the acting. As Tom, James Blair (also the play’s technical director) tingles with subdued angst and anger. Betsy Kruse Craig plays Kate Kingsley with the dual respect and bursting zeal of a truly caring teacher. But Rachel Lacy steals the show as Eve.

    Lacy, who graduated from the UA last December with degrees in theater and French, takes on the autistic Eve with stunning conviction. She bobs her upper body in tune with a cosmic groove that only she can hear. She raps her head with contorted fingers, and caresses her flopping ponytail while reminiscing about horse’s manes. Adopted mannerisms seem a part of her DNA.

    Lacy said that she studied for the role of Eve by reading a book by autism expert Temple Grandin, which taught her to “”think in pictures.”” She also observed classes at Catalina High School, and watched a lot of YouTube videos. Some of her character’s mannerisms were borrowed from students she observed, others from random folks around town.

    “”I saw this guy walking in the park and thought, ‘Well, he looks kind of autistic,’ so I copied his walk,”” Lacy laughed. Her greatest challenge was weeding out mannerisms that were not “”both theatrical and genuine.””

    “”I hate to say it, but I would have believed you were authentic,”” said audience member Moriah Santo, who has a master’s degree in speech pathology from NAU. Santo currently works at Kelland Elementary in an autistic classroom. “”The way they handled it was very tasteful and really moving,”” she said.

    Despite the unnecessary and confusing bombshell dropped ten minutes before the play’s conclusion, “”Miracles”” is tight and stirring. It will not make you laugh. It will not make you cry. But it will make you think.

     

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