To say that RARE, Judith Thompson's collaboration with a cast of non-professional actors with Down syndrome, smashes stereotypes is to minimize the impact of an extraordinary production.
This is not didactic good-for-you theatre; it's a unique, emotionally powerful stage event.
As she did with her collaborations Body & Soul and The Grace Project: Sick!, Thompson has taken the cast members' stories and crafted them into a coherent whole, sometimes spotlighting single performers, sometimes featuring the full ensemble.
They talk about their families, their fears and their passions in a script that neither flatters them nor turns them into victims. A sequence where they cry out in unison that they're not afraid of anything is countered by another revealing their actual anxieties.
And they're not always aiming for user-friendliness. One actor refreshingly declares that he fucking wishes he didn't have Down's.
Thompson's cast members are spectacularly diverse, each with his or her own forte. Nicholas David Herd is the comedian/dancer, Dylan Harman Livaja the poet, Nada Marie Christiane Mayla the linguist (she speaks three languages), Suzanne Love the movement specialist, and so on.
A superb scene where they dance individually to a sexually charged music illustrates their distinctive personalities and widens the piece's purview. The point is not only that every person with Down syndrome is different, but that every person on the planet has his or her own rhythm.
There are some startling visuals, especially when the performers first appear in masks. Thompson's staging emphasize the connections between the performers, an element that adds a layer of tenderness.
Victoria Carr's music underscores and enhances the scenes, though I long for a Down syndrome music-maker, and a final song sung while the actors sit onstage is too long, one of RARE's few static situations.
But when Krystal Hope Nausbaum recites a letter to pregnant women pleading with them not to abort their fetuses with Down syndrome, she's a knockout. It's one of many moments in RARE that put us in touch with our humanity.
Which is exactly what theatre's supposed to do.