By Michael Chan, Mark Deans, Bruce Gladwin, Simon Laherty, Sarah Mainwaring, Scott Price, and Sonia Teuben; Directed by Bruce Gladwin
Produced by Back to Back Theatre
Part of the Public Theater's Under the Radar 2020
Off Off Broadway, Play
Ran 1.8.20 - 1.19.20
Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street
by Keith Paul Medelis on 1.19.20
L-R: Scott Price, Michael Chan, Sarah Mainwaring, and Simon Laherty in The Shadow Whose Prey the Hunter Becomes.
(An actor who did not appear in this version of the performance is on the far right.)
BOTTOM LINE: Four disabled performers fight the supertitles that they may not need—but do we?
We are welcomed to a group therapy session for disabled* people that places us in Australia (through an indigenous land acknowledgement). What follows are a series of conversations about the dialogue around political correctness on topics ranging from the politics of watching Harvey Weinstein films to the ethics of artificial intelligence in an increasingly automated world.
The cast, who are all credited as co-writers, is made up of Scott Price, Michael Chan, Sarah Mainwaring, and Simon Laherty, all disabled. Though that label is not without controversy either, as they each debate that description of themselves—what is the politically correct term for us? Maybe neurologically diverse? Is that accurate? Then there's finger pointing at Michael, the group therapy leader, who the others claim is not actually disabled at all. Michael disagrees. But maybe he is not "neurologically diverse" enough? He counters by speaking Chinese, his native tongue, to us in a private moment. Take that diversity!
Conflict erupts when Scott notices that everything they are saying is being "translated" above their heads for us, the audience. But the actors are all speaking English—notably Australian English—and with voices that are frequently impaired. Even so, Scott is offended that his English needs to be captioned. Can't we understand him just fine? Isn't it our job to attempt to do so?
"I don't think they're getting it," Michael says looking out to us. Although in The Shadow Whose Hunter the Prey Becomes, "getting it" doesn't seem so much the goal as asking the questions. The collectively built text—by director Bruce Gladwin along with the cast—speaks well to the uncertainties around ethics and language in our time. It is the transitions between these topics that can sometimes feeling unmotivated. But when the show allows us to breath in the tortured beauty of a man inspecting his own supertitled words the way one might gaze mysteriously at the moon, The Shadow shines.
*Editor's Note—this is the term used by the writers and performers of this piece.
(The Shadow Whose Hunter the Prey Becomes played at the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street, January 8-19, 2020. The running time was 1 hour with no intermission. Performances were 1/8 at 7, 1/9 at 4:30, 1/10 at 6, 1/11 at 2, 1/12 at 5:30 and 9, 1/13 at 4:30, 1/16 at 7:30, 1/17 at 6, 1/18 at 1 and 5, and 1/19 at 1:30. For more information visit publictheater.org.)
The Shadow Whose Hunter the Prey Becomes is by Michael Chan, Mark Deans, Bruce Gladwin, Simon Laherty, Sarah Mainwaring, Scott Price, and Sonia Teuben. Directed by Gladwin. Screen Design by Rhian Hinkley and lowercase. Lighting Design by Andrew Livingston and bluebottle. Sound Design by Lachlan Carrick. Music Composition by the Luke Howard Trio: Daniel Farrugia, Luke Howard, and Jonathon Zion. Stage Manager is Alana Hoggart.
The cast is Michael Chan, Simon Laherty, Sarah Mainwaring, and Scott Price.