Advertised as “a hatchling production” by People’s Light & Theatre Company, the current run of BEAUTIFUL BOY in Malvern is a work in progress. For audiences, according to award-winning actor/director/playwright Pete Pryor, it means that this run of the show “offers a unique experience–involvement in the early stages of the script’s development, with a discussion after every performance to determine what resonates with them and what to eliminate.” For theater critics, a work in development means that the production is not eligible to be reviewed. But if it were, my review would be a most enthusiastic rave for the writing, acting, and importance of this remarkably funny and extremely moving story.
Pryor began writing BEAUTIFUL BOY–his first play–in 2007, following the diagnosis and early treatment of his eldest son, now twelve, for autism. It started as an autobiographical solo show, presented in 1812 Productions’ Development Series in 2008, with Pryor, who co-founded the all-comedy company, playing himself. He subsequently was awarded a prestigious Independence Fellowship to continue his work on the piece.
“The play has changed from the original one-man show with 1812, which was very personal and cathartic for me,” Pryor acknowledges. “I wanted to make it more accessible and universal, not just for families dealing with autism, but with other issues as well. For example, I changed my character to an African-American father [played by Lindsay Smiling] with a white son [Aubie Merrylees, who also takes on the multiple roles of “Everyone Else” in the family saga], to heighten the separation between them. But the idea of the play, of trying to connect, is the same; and it’s also very funny!”
Through a sequence of episodic scenes, Pryor exposes a family’s initial feelings of frustration, anger, and inadequacy in trying to cope with their situation, but also evinces the strength, dedication, much-needed humor, and, especially, the deep love that we must all rely on to survive life’s challenges and personal relationships. And although it’s a part of the “Hatchling Reading Series” launched by People’s Light this season, BEAUTIFUL BOY offers more than a strictly bare-bones script-in-hand performance; it has movement, costumes, lighting, sound, and video, and a fully committed three-person cast, which includes Tom Byrn as the narrator.
If you aren’t able to make it to the present incarnation, be sure to follow the progress of BEAUTIFUL BOY through its future development, and to Pryor’s ultimate “objective of creating a final full-stage production.” People’s Light, which offered an earlier reading of the play in its Community Matters series, is dedicated to relevant programming that engages audiences and partners with other organizations to promote awareness of important social issues. BEAUTIFUL BOY perfectly fits the bill of theater that makes a difference. Anyone who has a heart, and a sense of humor, will surely love it, and be affected by it, in any stage of its development.
Latest posts by Debra Miller (see all)
- Theatre Exile’s THE PHILLY FAN Gives ‘Boo-Birds’ Something to Cheer About! – June 13, 2013
- Renegade’s GLASS: SHATTERED Examines the Persistence of Memory through a Post-Modern Lens – June 10, 2013
- An Enticing World Premiere of BARCELONA at People’s Light – June 5, 2013
- A Familiar and Innovative PINOCCHIO at the Arden – June 5, 2013
- New City Stage Company’s AMERICAN SLIGO Serves up Dysfunction with Dinner – June 4, 2013