Wednesday, November 15, 2017

“Falling”: Life In The Real World of Autism.

In the normal ebb and flow of family life, with more than one child, there is always one dominant and one follower. In a Nanosecond that dynamic can change and the reverse will happen. In the Martin household, that energy never changes it shifts, not between siblings but between the parents.

Tami (D. Candis Paule) and Bill (Steve Schmitz) are still working out code words to keep their 18 -year old autistic son Josh (Robert Malave) from becoming violent, hurting himself or one of them or destroying everything they have invested in over the course of his lifetime and that includes inadvertently disconnecting all emotional ties from each other and their teenaged daughter Lisa. (Alanna Serrano hits all the right notes and all the right body language of a teenager whose life is too complicated to deal.)  

Inner Mission Productions in University Heights is presenting a birds-eye look into the lives of parent (s) and family with (special needs) autistic children.

“Falling” is by mom Deanna Jent who has a 17 old with autism and deals with it on a minute -to minute- basis.  At the helm directing this 70 minute hold on to your seats play, Samantha Ginn is a teacher for ‘individuals on the spectrum' and deals with autistic children on a daily basis. Both know from whence they come.   

“Falling” is a family reality looked at through a mother’s eye. It’s a story that engulfs the entire family including Josh’s grand-mother Grammy Sue (Kathi Copeland) who will be staying with the Martins while her place is being fixed. Her fix for Josh is prayer and talking to God.  

For Tami and Bill it’s a question of how long they can go on keeping Josh at home and looking after his well -being. It is only a matter of time…time before one of them really gets hurt (at one point Josh grabs Mimi’s hair and throws her against the wall) or Lisa moves out with Grammy Sue, or Tami and Bill’s (“You keep me out of the loop”) marriage, already strained, completely dissolves.

B: “I have to believe there is help out there for him if you’d just trust them.”
T: “How is it better for Josh if he’s someplace where no one loves him?”

Wanna have your heart broken?
D. Candice Paule and Robewrt Malave
Ginn’s direction is straight on and the solid cast of five move through the daily business of keeping on schedule, keeping Josh safe and still managing a certain sense of civility and, if you will order.

Robert Malave’s Josh bursts on to the scene somewhat like a twister sucking everyone into his orbit, prepared or not. Most of the time they are ready, almost anticipating his moves by having ear phones at hand if Josh hears a noise that freaks him out, or his school schedule posted on the wall to remind him of a day he has to get on the bus or pick up feathers from his feather box looming over the threshold from living room to hallway or giving him another marble adding to his already collection.  

Malave’s Josh functions at the low end of the spectrum, although not all with autism do, and Malave is a bundle of constant energy, hands moving, arms flailing at times, fingers in motion, no holds barred if he feels like pulling up his shirt to expose his upper torso or play with his genitals. What a bravo performance he puts in. Hats off!
D. Candic Paule with Robert Malave
And while all this activity is swirling around, Tami and Bill hold each other tightly to keep them from falling. As can be expected Schmitz’ Bill (right on target) wants to feel a little more, say affection from his wife. Candis’ Tami has all she can do to hold herself together (and does it beautifully and courageously) without falling apart. It’s painful, eye-popping and resolute.

Never once did I get the impression that it was Jent’s idea for us to feel sorry for the family but to put it out there for a civilian, if you will, to enter into another world, especially if one has never been exposed, yet feels justified in expressing what the family should do.
It’s like someone splashing ice water in your face while you weren’t expecting it.

There are some light moments and some heartbreaking as when Lisa wants to get a dog but the barking freaks Josh out and the entire household is in a tizzy; so no dog for now.

It’s another reality for a petulant Lisa who comes on to the scene after the audience is introduced to Josh. Serrano’s actions match the distanced attitude she uses as a shield. She follows the rules, but is clearly annoyed by them. “Does Grammy know to bring her helmet and shield?”

Kathi Copeland’s (recently seen at Scripps Tanch Theatre in “Good People), Grandma Sue tries to put on a good face (“We can ask God for a solution.”), but is at first curious when she hands Josh a present she brought for him (a 1000piece puzzle) topped off with a glittery bow. Josh immediately pulls off the bow and fondles it while the puzzle is forgotten on the coffee table in the living room (Alondra Velez).   

On the other end of the spectrum, there is a scene showing a Tami moment, unencumbered by marriage or children, lip-syncing to an old song she knew years ago and having a blast. And back to reality when she is able to manage a small bit of affection from Josh when he leans into her and hugs. What more can a mother ask?

“Falling” is much more than a story about autism and yours truly cannot do it justice buy throwing out a few tidbits of impressions. I urge you to hasten it to InnerMission soon. It’s an all around excellent albeit different toned play than many have come to expect and tht's not a bad thing.
Robert Malave in "Falling"
See you at the theatre.

Dates: Through Nov. 25th
Organization: Inner Mission Productions
Phone: 619.324.8970
Production Type: Drama
Where: 4545 Park Blvd. San Diego, CA 92116
Ticket Prices: $25.00
Venue: Diversionary Black Box
Photo: Adriana Zuniga-Williams


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