EPIC Players lived up to its name (Empower, Perform, Include, Create) with inspired and lively performances from its neurodiverse cast of The Little Prince, which runs from November 10th through November 18th. As the proud mom of actress Samantha Elisofon, (The Rose) I am not the only one who loved this show. EPIC received a glowing review from Theater Is Easy (theasy) http://www.theasy.com/Reviews/2018/L/thelittleprince. What greater tribute could there be to EPIC’s neurodiverse casting than this comment by a reviewer? “EPIC, which has taken up residence at the Flea Theater downtown, features performers with and without developmental disabilities. Part of the lesson of EPIC’s inclusive casting of The Little Prince lies in the diversity among its alter-abled (the company’s preferred term) performers. Expectations of how disability might or might not manifest in performance should be left at the door; this is as varied and individual a cast as any other.” Clearly EPIC Players is accomplishing its mission of empowering artists with developmental disabilities and demonstrating the success of neurodiverse casting.
Even more enthusiastic was the review in Theater Scene.Net: “If there are any limitations on the abilities of this joyful company of actors performing The Little Prince, none are apparent as each and every actor on stage carries out his or her part with vigor and humor.” http://www.theaterscene.net/plays/offbway-plays/the-little-prince/joel-benjamin/
Learning to listen carefully and “see with your heart” are important themes passionately portrayed by EPIC Players’ neurodiverse cast. Audiences can see the sadness in the Aviator (Willam Ketter) when he tells the Little Princehow his drawings were misunderstood and rejected by his parents. With or without disabilities, everyone can relate to the aviator’s situation; we all turn to our friends for empathy and understanding when our families fail us.
The Prince has much to learn on his travels about his new friends and old, how they are alike and different from one another. As the Prince meets new characters from different planet, he starts to see the world from new perspectives. The Rose is special to the Prince because he has protected and cared for her; the Fox (Miles Butler) becomes a friend because he is tamed (rather than hunted) by the Prince. The King (Gideon Pianko) is charmingly pompous declaring power over the stars; while the Lamplighter (Gianluca Cirafici) and The Business Woman (Kim Carter) are humorously emphatic about the rigid rules that define their lives. For the Lamp Lighter, set times for turning the lights on and off have become a trap. The Business Woman is consumed by math and numbers. Each cast member plays his or her role so convincingly that the audience is able to enjoy, respect (and perhaps embrace) each character. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all walk out of the theater into a world where people listen to each other’s perspectives and respect each other’s differences?
I will remember The Little Prince for a long time—not just for the superb acting, but also for the smooth direction (Travis Burbee and Andrew Kader) and the excellent pacing of the show. Last but by no means least, I LOVED the costumes by Cat Fisher, with their vivid colors and wild variety of patterns and textures. The Snake was super sexy and slithery in brown velvet and glitter, while The Rose was vibrant in her brown tutu, red flower hat and green velvet gloves, complete with thorns. Even the King’s costume with its crazy plaid was wonderful and whimsical.
Kudos also go to the set designer Ryo Tatsumi for the Aviator’s cleverly broken-down airplane.
There’s more I could say, but I prefer to end with a quote from TheaterScene.net:
“One of The Little Prince’s surprising joys, though, came post-curtain call, when EPIC’s artistic director Aubrie Therrien invited cast members to speak about their experiences performing with the company. Few theater visits offer such glimpses into the heart of a cast and theater company, but the post-show speeches made evident that EPIC can continue to deliver on its promise of transformation for audiences and company members alike, regardless of what adults tell us makes us different from each other.”
I couldn’t have said it better.