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CAT Theatre The Joshua Plant

By • Jan 26th, 2014 • Category: Reviews
The Joshua Plant
CAT Theatre: (Info) (Web)
CAT Theatre, Richmond, VA
Through February 8th
1:45 with intermission
$19/$17 Student/$13 RAPT
Reviewed January 24th, 2013

The key words for this review are “first” and “special.”

The first production I am reviewing in this year’s Acts of Faith Festival is The Joshua Plant. CAT Theatre’s production marks the first full performance of this original work by local playwrights Amy Berlin and P. Ann Bucci.

As a special education teacher, this play is truly special to me, for its story revolves around Joshua, a teen with autism. Joshua is non-verbal, except for his internal conversations that he holds with Sid, a house plant (Joshua’s plant).

Diego Salinas goes beyond authentic in his performance. He realistically touches all the nuances of sensory overload, self stimulatory and ritualistic behaviors, facial tics, toe walking and avoidance of physical contact. CAT Theatre worked closely with the nearby Dominion School and director Laurie Follmer’s resulting work with Salinas is extraordinary. The differentiation Salinas displays in his character when he is “autistic” versus when he is “normal” in his conversations with Sid is remarkable. He not only shows a range of emotions; but does a pretty good Seinfeld impression.

Aaron Orensky is also masterful as Sid the plant. He uses his voice, energy, timing and facial characteristics to command the stage and bring to life a character who can not move from one spot.

The cast is skillfully rounded out by Rebekah Spence, as Joshua’s harrowed and overwhelmed single mother; Kathy Parker as her supportive and caring friend and Tim Gettemy as Joshua’s mother’s boyfriend. Spence balances Sandy’s love and optimism in hoping to reach her son with pain and raw emotion. Parker is spunky, down to earth and strong as the kind of friend and neighbor we’d all like to have and Gettemy is narcissistic and twisted as the alcoholic boyfriend. My only complaint was at times Jimmy came across as almost just a bit likeable and empathetic, but this was erased in the darker moments.

Lin Heath’s set design works to create the condo of Sandy and Joshua that is half living space and have special education/Occupational Therapy space. Alan Armstrong’s lights also help create the mood and time.

Berlin and Bucci have created an emotionally poignant and disarming presentation of what life must be like inside the mind of a child with autism and why they might do the things they do. As both a reviewer and a special educator I truly hope everyone who hears about The Joshua Plant gets the opportunity to experience this special work.

Photo Gallery

Diego Salinas Diego Salinas and Aaron Orensky
Diego Salinas
Diego Salinas and Aaron Orensky
Diego Salinas and Rebekah Spence Diego Salinas, Rebekah Spence, Tim Gettemy
Diego Salinas and Rebekah Spence
Diego Salinas, Rebekah Spence, Tim Gettemy
Tim Gettemy, Rebekah Spence and Aaron Orensky
Tim Gettemy, Rebekah Spence and Aaron Orensky

Photos by Chamberlayne Actors Theatre

The Cast

  • Sandy: Rebekah Spence
  • Jimmy: Tim Gettemy
  • Ruth: Kathy Parker
  • Josh: Diego Salinas
  • Sid: Aaron Orensky

The Crew

  • Director: Laurie Follmer
  • Assistant Director
  • Written By Amy Berlin and P. Ann Bucci
  • Stage Manager: Christy Hudson
  • Assistant Stage Manager: Kent Walker
  • Executive Producer: Kelly St. Clair
  • Associate Production Managers: Granville Scott and Lynn Smith
  • Technical Director: Kent Walker
  • Set Designer: Lin Heath
  • Lighting Design: Alan Armstrong
  • Costume Design: Charolotte Scharff
  • Sound Design: Buddy Bishop
  • Props Coordinators: Jim Scott and Sandy Siler
  • Fight Choreographer: Emily Turner
  • House Manager Coorodinator: Linda Sue Underwood
  • House Management Team: Shari Adams, June Spencer, Lerita Carter, Celie Seeber, Janice Jones
  • Light Board Operator: Christy Hudson
  • Lighting Assistant: Hanna Polaski
  • Sound Operator: Tiffany Shifflett Jenkins
  • Set Construction Crew: Jay Fleisher, Dan Gerstenlauer, Eric Kinder, Rose Marie Mitchell, Geoffrey Saur, Kent Walker, Betty Williams
  • Marquee: Lin Heath
  • Cast Photos: Kinney Thompson
  • Season Show Logos: Mike Fletcher
  • Poster Artwork: Mike Flecther and Art Trotter
  • Playbill: Mike Fletcher

Disclaimer: CAT Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review. Playwright Amy Berlin writes for ShowBizRadio.

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is by day a Special Education teacher, teaching History, Science and drama to Middle and High School students in a private Day School in Stafford. He has degrees in Educational Media and Special Education. He is also a part time Radio News Anchor and occasional actor in the Richmond area. Bruce is a native of New Jersey and spent most of his "adult" life in Upstate New York, where he started and ran a national award winning youth theater and cable television program for over 10 years. He has lived in Virginia since 2002, and in Caroline County since 2005, where he is active in many community groups; including serving on the Board of Caroline's Promise.

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