No Child

Have you ever gone to see a performance that received a standing ovation? Usually there is some hesitation. First you wonder, “is somebody going to stand up?” Then you wonder, “is everybody going to stand up?” Well, have you ever seen a show where there was no doubt, and everybody jumped to their feet at the end? Last night’s opening of “No Child” at the Loeb Drama Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts was the no-doubt kind. It was a first for me, I think.

“No Child” is a one-woman show by Nilaja Sun. It is a fictionalized account of Sun’s experience teaching theater at Malcolm X High School in the Bronx—sort of a modern-day, female “To Sir, With Love.” Sun plays all the characters, from the children to the Principal to the parents and the janitor. She switches from role to role in an amazing rapid-fire Robin-Williamsesque style. But unlike Robin Williams, each character takes over Sun’s entire body. You can tell who is talking from his or her posture and body language alone.

The performance was astonishing. I’m glad I saw it. I’m going to cherish it like a trophy. I’ve always been envious that my father actually saw Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews in My Fair Lady on Broadway. Well, I saw Nilaja Sun in “No Child.” Yeah, that was awesome.

2 Responses to “No Child”

  1. jeff behrens Says:

    We are seeing it sat – now with even more anticipation. Meanwhile how are things?? Lets catch up sometime!

  2. Jules Says:

    Thanks for the review Omar. We bought four tickets, on your recommendation. Now do you feel pressure? (Kidding) This sounds right up my alley–I love one person shows which are executed well technically, like this one.

    I liked your behavioral analysis of standing ovations. To add to the conversation, I can tell you that I have learned that Americans are pretty generous with standing O’s, although they typically unfold in the awkward slow wave pattern you describe. But living in Ireland I was surprised to see that they don’t really happen there. Or at least I never was present for one, despite going to the theatre at least once a month. Maybe Irish performance standards are terribly high, or maybe the population is low on the kind of people who bravely begin standing ovations. (Don’t you feel embarrassed for those small unlucky knots of people who never recruit anyone else, as they forcibly smile and clap, fully aware of the breezy open air all around them?)

    Anyway, I always thought that visiting American theatre companies should be given a little primer on Irish audience behavior, just to make sure that the rather short and quieter Irish clapping reception at the end did not crush the performers’ egos.

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