As the undercurrents festival wraps up their first weekend, one of the most notable performances, so far, is most certainly Crippled. The show opened to a sold out theatre, and for good reason.
Playwright and actor Paul David Power opens the curtains on his lived experience as a person with disabilities and struggling with the immeasurable grief of losing a partner in this beautifully written performance. The piece begins at the harbourfront in St. John’s, Newfoundland, where Tony (Paul David Power) stands at the water’s edge, contemplating jumping in and being swept away by the water, ending his life. Had it not been for the opportune arrival of a friendly stranger, this would very likely have been his end.
Initially Tony is guarded, but Evan (Pat Dempsey) is able to ease him into letting down his walls and the two of them have a long talk that takes them through many intimate experiences in their lives. Tony is overcome with emotions, which hinder his ability to see things clearly, but Evan is able to bring him back from his overwhelming sense of grief. Throughout their conversation, the audience is enraptured as the minimal set transcends many different locals, from the waterfront, to Tony’s home, to the bar where Tony went earlier that eve.
Crippled is an absolutely masterful piece of writing.
Throughout their conversation are many heartfelt moments of love, loss, and longing. Your heart feels for Tony and you are thankful that Evan is there with him on that cool night by the water. There are also many surprising twists within the pair’s heart-to-heart that make the audience reconsider what they originally were made to feel earlier in the performance. Similar to how one learns throughout their life that things are not always what they appear to be, the audience learns that Tony’s experiences are not always what they appear to be, or how he experiences them to be.
Without risking giving too much away, we leave you with this bit of advice: if you ever have the opportunity to see this show, be sure to. Crippled is an absolutely masterful piece of writing that we are fortunate to have had shown here in Ottawa.