SummerWorks review: Deafy

Chris Dodd's play is a riveting and crucial story about the experience of marginalization

DEAFY by Chris Dodd (Follow the Signs Theatre/SummerWorks). At the Theatre Centre BMO Incubator. Aug 11 at 6 pm, Aug 14 at 7 pm. See listing. Rating: NNNN

One of the several works-in-progress featured as part of the SummerWorks Lab series, Deafy is a riveting and crucial story about the experience of marginalization. 

Writer/performer Chris Dodd plays a man named Nathan Jesper, a speaker and educator on the Deaf community. Late for his talk, Nathan flounders around, flustered to start, finally diving into a story that is revealing of the barriers the Deaf community faces each day, but also a personal tale of isolation and loneliness. 

The story resonates on several levels. It shows how difficult it can be for the Deaf and hard-of-hearing to navigate hearing spaces in terms of logistical barriers – Nathan’s friend Len tries to get a bartender to turn on the captions on the hockey game, to no avail – but also the pervasive bigotry and ignorance they face, exemplified in the rigmarole Nathan runs through while trying to get his license.

But beyond the challenges of the Deaf community, Nathan’s story is one that speaks to anyone who has felt shut out, oppressed, or marginalized. It’s a story of struggling to find a sense of place and belonging, and how to deal with the hurt and resentment of feeling that the only person you can rely on is yourself.

I found the final scene confusing, and was unsure how it related to the structure of the main story. Under the direction of Ashley Wright, Dodd’s performance is engaging, but the blocking is a bit static, and I wanted him to do more to add some variation and dimension.

Despite these minor drawbacks, Dodd’s performance is captivating, and his story resonates across identities.

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