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Wendy Rose: Don't miss Paul David Power's ‘Crippled'

“Crippled” playwright and actor Paul David Power (foreground) in a scene with Pat Dempsey, who plays the character Evan. — Chris Hibbs photo
“Crippled” playwright and actor Paul David Power (foreground) in a scene with Pat Dempsey, who plays the character Evan. — Chris Hibbs photo - Submitted

Although there were signs posted around the theatre warning of foul language and mature themes, I didn’t see any signs suggesting patrons bring tissues.

I likely wouldn’t have heeded the warning anyway — like playwright, producer, and actor Paul David Power, I’m headstrong, I’m tough, and I refuse to listen to society’s suggestions on how I live my life.

Unlike Power, however, I wouldn’t make it through to the end of show still being able to speak coherently. Instead, I sat, immobile in the dark theatre, my pen useless in my hand. How am I going condense this gorgeous show, filled with raw, intense emotion, into a 500-word review?

“Crippled” opened at the LSPU Hall on Feb. 7. A story “about love, death, life, and redemption,” the show was an emotional rollercoaster that I would definitely ride again.

I was — and hours later, continue to be — genuinely blown away by this performance: the acting, the writing, the set, the sound design, and above all, the generosity of Paul David Power, for sharing this deeply personal, and emotional experience with a live audience

We meet our lead character Tony (Paul David Power) at a dark wharf in St. John’s. Looking out over the water, he throws his crutches, one by one, into the water. It seems he is about to join them in the cold harbour. Before he has the chance to jump, a stranger happens by, interrupting by sparking a conversation.

The pair is introduced shortly after Evan (Pat Dempsey) fishes out Tony’s crutches. Playing the role of a concerned citizen, Evan questions Tony about his reason to be at the wharf at that time of night.

As the conversation continues, the pair find common ground — rough childhoods, coming out as gay, navigating the St. John’s gay scene, taking risks, fearing rejection, finding love, facing loss, and more, plus the attitude they face life with. For Evan, this attitude is “f**k it” – he doesn’t need anyone’s approval for anything. Tony takes a different approach.

This late-night exchange also highlights their many differences. For Tony, his physical disability is what sets him apart from most. Evan believes that Tony uses his disability as a way to separate himself, choosing to stand back from the crowd instead of being a part of it. He doesn’t want to be “the inspirational story that everyone expects.” He just wants to be left alone. This sentiment is extended harshly to Evan.

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As they recount a lifetime of memories and recent interactions, an unlikely sort of friendship forms.

Tony — real name Paul, he soon admits — is fiercely grieving the loss of his longtime partner, and his actions are guided by the void within him. Evan sympathizes, reminding Paul that he is not the only person who has experienced loss.

Their connection growing, the play soon takes an intense and highly unanticipated turn.

With this plot twist came tears. I tried to fight them back, maintain my composure, but as the beautiful dialogue continued to pour out of the actors, the tears began to flow. I took solace in just how much sniffling was occurring around me.

I was — and hours later, continue to be — genuinely blown away by this performance: the acting, the writing, the set, the sound design, and above all, the generosity of Paul David Power, for sharing this deeply personal, and emotional experience with a live audience, four days in a row.

It’s only February, but I’m already thinking this might be the best show of 2018. Get a ticket, and get some tissues.

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