Sunday, April 12, 2009

Nina Domingue is brilliant in’ no CHILD….’at CPT

If you are smart you will go to the phone right now and call 216-631-2727, or go on-line to, and order tickets to see ‘no CHILD…,’ now in performance at Cleveland Public Theatre. You’d better hurry because as the accolades spread, the 50-seat performance space will quickly sell out.

There are not enough superlatives in the English language to describe Nina Domingue’s one-woman performance in this well written and conceived play.

‘no CHILD…” was penned by New York City native Nilaja Sun, who has been a teaching artist with New York’s Epic Theatre Company’s “Journeys” program, which brings theatre to city schools through intensive sessions of rehearsal and performance of a single play. It follows Sun as she attempts to mount a production of ‘OUR COUNTRY’S GOOD’ at Malcolm X High School in the Bronx. The script examines prisoners in Australia. Yes, that seems like a strange topic choice for these kids. On the surface, it is, but …. (I’m not going to go any further with this and ruin it for all of you who are going to attend.)

Domingues plays not only Nilaja Sun, but all fifteen characters in the story – the students and fellow teachers, parents and janitors, and even the security guard who mans the metal detector at the school’s gates.

She develops all the roles with absolute clarity. Each character has such a unique gesture pattern, inflection and vocal sound that there is never any doubt who is speaking. This is a “must be seen to be believed” performance.

We, through the presentation, laugh, tear up and get outraged as the play captures the essence of what it is like to be in the public school system today. In this case, the public schools of the Bronx, which parallels the inner city schools in Cleveland and all other major cities that have been the victims of white flight. An exodus that leaves the falling apart buildings and over-worked teachers with student bodies of ill-prepared African American and Hispanics. Kids who are expected to pass the No School Left Behind proficiency tests, but aren’t capable due to poor home environments and inept schools.

The Ohio premiere production is well-directed by Lisa Ortenzio, who is no stranger to the topic. She directs and trains young professional actors and develops programming the school outreach programs. Her background includes being the Education Director of Cleveland Youth Theatre. She has taught at Westlake High School, Willoughby South and Magnificat High School.

Capsule judgement: Domingue so consumes the various roles that it is almost impossible to believe that only one, not fifteen performers appear on stage. BRAVO! BRAVO! BRAVO! Go see this show!!