‘No Child…’ is a Dream Deferred Off-Broadway

I first published this review on BroadwayWorld.com on March 13, 2008 following a performance of ‘No Child…’ at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles, CA.  This production is now running at the Barrow Street Theatre in New York City.

Oh that waskly wabbit George W. Bush, doing a complete about face with his 2009 budget request to cut $16.3 million for the National Endowment for the Arts.  President Bush might actively be pursuing the degradation of federal funding for the arts, but inadvertently the lame duck has consistently delivered in providing plenty of fodder for the very art form he is trying to kill.

Combined with the eighth consecutive year of decreasing funding for the Department of Education’s Arts in Education programs, playwright and actress Nilaja Sun has found the perfect moment to make a vibrant case for arts in schools, and for theatre in general.  Hopefully, those disgusted with the current administrations tactics, on all fronts, are willing to listen.

In No Child…, Sun’s highly entertaining and message driven one-woman play, now running at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, the life altering affect theatre can have on children is thrown center stage.

A whirlwind of energy, Sun is bustling with her handful of unforgettable characters, all portrayed by the skilled performer without any costume changes or nary a beat between transformations.  No Child… simplistically directed by Hal Brooks, tells the story of a teaching artist – someone tasked with incorporating the arts into a classroom – battling for the attention, not only of the mostly unresponsive and abrasive Malcolm X High School – a fictitious Bronx location – but also from the system at large, prone to dismissing many a troubled public school system.

As Sun points out at one point in No Child… within New York City, it is only a short train ride between the obscenely wealthy and the abject poor.  While America’s upper crust worries about getting into a hot spot co-op, just across town the urban salt of the earth is struggling for their lives.  This growing disparity is also seen when looking in on the country’s public schools, stuck with the ill-fated No Child Left Behind Act to contend with.

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