Revival of Mark Medoff Play Directed by Kenny Leon
On April 11, 2018, Children of a Lesser God opened at Studio 54, where it had been running in previews since March 22, 2018. This is the first revival of Mark Medoff’s play since it premiered in 1980. This production is directed by Kenny Leon, whose previous Broadway directing credits include Holler if Ya Hear Me, A Raisin in the Sun, Stick Fly, The Mountaintop, Fences, Radio Golf, and Gem of the Ocean. The cast is led by Joshua Jackson, making his Broadway debut, who is well known for his roles in such television shows as “Dawson’s Creek” and “Fringe,” as well as films such as Cruel Intentions, The Mighty Ducks, One Week, and Sky. Starring opposite Jackson is Lauren Ridloff, also making her Broadway debut. A deaf actress who had a small part in Todd Haynes’ film Wonderstruck, she found her way to Broadway through a wonderful accident; she happened to come on board as Kenny Leon’s sign language instructor, when he was struck by her dynamism and decided to cast her in a revival of this play, which had its out-of-town tryout production with the Berkshire Theatre Group in the summer of 2017. On Broadway, the cast also includes Anthony Edwards, Julee Cerda, Treshelle Edmond, Kecia Lewis, and John McGinty.
In their reviews of the show, most major critics found the show to be a bit of a disappointment. Jesse Green from The New York Times called it “a mixed bag of a Broadway revival,” while he did enjoy Lauren Ridloff’s performance, calling it “profound.” David Rooney from The Hollywood Reporter was less generous in his response, calling the revival “dreary” and expressing distaste with Leon’s music choices, among other things. He also deemed Leon’s production “sluggish,” finding it less compelling and more didactic than Nina Raines’ play Tribes, which also takes the deaf community as its subject. Marilyn Stasio from Variety was also not a fan, and although she found Ridloff to be a “stunning performer,” she found that Jackson was “barely up to” the task of his burdensome role, which requires giving voice to Sarah’s dialogue in addition to playing his own part. Joe Dziemianowicz from the New York Daily News said there is “something to admire” in Mark Medoff’s play, but felt that the current production is “only fitfully engaging and stirring,” and like his colleagues, admired Ridloff’s performance which he says “leaves a lasting impression.” Greg Evans from Deadline did not like the show very much, calling the play “a well-constructed if somewhat dated relationship drama,” and that “the play might not seem as bold as it once did, but its heart merits understanding.”
The Show Is Not Selling Very Well
Unfortunately, these negative reviews are especially dire for this show, as it is not selling very well. In the last reported week of box office figures, the week ending April 8, 2018, Children of a Lesser God brought in $375,274, which represents 37.77% of its gross potential. Over the course of the three weeks of performances thus far, the average percentage reached of gross potential has been 37.94%. Therefore, this show was not selling well before the reviews came out, and with such a negative to mixed response, it does not appear that the critical response to give the show much of a boost. Nevertheless, these reviews have made a star of Lauren Ridloff, who will likely go on to achieve great things on stage and screen. The production is currently scheduled to run for an open-ended engagement, but chances are that it will announce closing soon.
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