Theater: “Dark Disabled Stories” @ the Public
Ryan Haddad’s “Dark Disabled Stories” (Public Theater) tackles a subject most people may not think about very often: the plight of those who aren’t as mobile as they are. We see them on our buses. We make room for them to sit. We’re polite to a fault, but what is it really like to be them?
Haddad, who has cerebral palsy, doesn’t want your pity. What this Lebanese-American actor/standup comic from Ohio wants is your attention, as he relates his often hilarious experiences with fellow New Yorkers who just don’t understand him. “No, NO, I don’t go to rehab,” he tells one well-meaning senior citizen. “This is a brain dysfunction; I was born this way.”
The indignity of losing control of your bladder, or tripping over a crooked curb you didn’t see coming are just a few of the real-life obstacles disabled people face, says Haddad. The situation gets even tougher if you’re disabled and gay. His encounters with flim-flammers and freaks on Grindr will make you laugh—and break your heart. “I just want someone to walk down the aisle with,” he pines.
Ryan shares the stage with Dickie Hearts who is gay and deaf. He’s also hilarious, and his hookups are equally problematic—one guy, a cop, wants to lock him in handcuffs. He’s game—“No kink-shaming!” he pleads with the audience in ASL—but he’s conflicted because he needs his hands to communicate. As he signs, by the way, his words are simultaneously projected on a screen behind him—and read aloud by a third character, Alejandra Ospina, who is wheelchair-bound.
“Dark Disabled Stories” asks you to take the plight of these individuals seriously, but it also happens to be smart, interesting, and damn funny. So go. You’ll look at a disabled person with renewed respect.