Amy and the Orphans
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Theater review by Adam Feldman
There have recently been a number of onstage opportunities for actors with disabilities, in major plays including The Healing, Cost of Living and the latest Broadway revival of The Glass Menagerie. Lindsey Ferrentino’s Amy and the Orphans, inspired by the playwright’s family history, extends that salutary trend to an actor with Down syndrome: the remarkable Jamie Brewer, familiar from her multiple roles on American Horror Story. Debra Monk and Mark Blum play Jacob and Maggie, respectively, squabbling middle-aged siblings whose father recently died; for his funeral, they return to New York City and collect their sister, Amy (Brewer), from the assisted-care facility where she lives. They barely know her, and as the play progresses they start to learn why.
Overgrown children, Jacob and Maggie are forced to reckon with the mistakes of their parents, and Ferrentino gives the audience a leg up on that understanding through flashbacks to their mother and father (Diane Davis and Josh McDermitt) at a couples-therapy retreat in the 1960s. These scenes carry the bulk of the play’s dramatic weight; otherwise, Amy and the Orphans is slim. Monk and Blum do fine, funny work, and Vanessa Aspillaga is wonderfully vivid as Amy’s pregnant caregiver, but the main attraction is Brewer’s presence. It’s not just a gimmick; it’s the point of the play, a statement for visibility. The casting is the message, and Brewer makes it effective.
Laura Pels Theatre (Off Broadway). By Lindsey Ferrentino. Directed by Scott Ellis. With Jamie Brewer, Debra Monk, Mark Blum, Vanessa Aspillaga. Running time: 1hr 30mins. No intermission.