by Mel House · August 11, 2014
The Practice Child is a madcap farce from the imagination of Canadian Writer/Director Tyler Stuart. His tight fast-paced script draws the audience into a wacky and delightful world that is both touching and laugh-out-loud funny.
Set in a present-day hospital, the plot unfolds in the course of several days. We meet Bill (Dylan Travers), the patient, who rather then worrying about his own health, assures his new fiance, Samantha (Erica DeLoach), that his mother will love her. And while his overbearing mother, Shirley (Laralu Smith), is not thrilled to meet Samantha, his sweet but inept older brother, Blil (Tom Ciarleglio), falls instantly in love.
When Dr. Cushing (Gary Dooley), the family’s absent-minded elderly doctor, diagnoses Bill with a brain tumor, this family needs to find a way to come together. Dr. Cushing must perform a risky surgery that could save Bill’s life, or leave him a vegetable. Mom suggests that Dr. Cushing do a trial surgery on Blil, to ensure that the surgery will be a success for her favored child, Bill.
It seems that Mom was so doped up on medicine when Blil was born that she mis-spelled his name on his birth certificate. She wrote him off as the “practice” child and started again with his younger brother Bill.
Thankfully Dr. Cushing scolds Shirley for such a suggestion, but that doesn’t stop her plotting. Meanwhile, Blil tries to woo Samantha with his ridiculous poetry, while making secret attempts to take his brother’s life. Bill patiently deals with his family’s antics and seems non-plussed, quickly forgiving his brother for trying to smother him.
Blil is remorseful and decides to make it up to his brother by finding their long-lost father. The boys were a product of a sperm donation. Meanwhile, Samantha demands that Bill move up the wedding, so that they can be married before his surgery. And just in time for the rehearsal wedding, Blil arrives with their long-lost Dad, Astronaut Ted Danson (Ron King). Dad is actually a homeless man that Blil finds outside the sperm bank. Sparks fly between Mom and Dad, and the plot just keeps getting sillier and sillier.
The simple set, consisting of a real hospital bed, night-stand and two chairs is just as polished as the beautiful Sheen Center Black Box space where you can catch this show. Stuart also succeeds as a Director in creating effective stage pictures. Fight Directors Tom Ciarleglio and Dylan Travers have done a wonderful job helping the cast to seemlessly incorporate physical bits, inlcuding my favorite gag--the family’s special own unique way of playing Yahtzee.
The recently-graduated cast from Savannah College of Art & Design are obviously having a terrific time bringing this show to New York. And I was especially delighted by the performance of Tom Ciarleglio (Blil), who reminds me at times of a young Chris Farley.