Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital and Care Network
at Second City E.T.C.
Its aim being to “promote awareness of the general topic of disability,” the Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital and Care Network’s production of NoBODY’S Perfect, an original revue by Amy J. Serpe, is less a theatrical event than an experiment in communication. With the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), tougher accessibility requirements for even small businesses are presenting the disabled with greater opportunities, both as employees and as consumers. But one barrier the ADA can do little about is the general public’s perception of the disabled. NoBODY’S Perfect is Serpe’s attempt to expand the awareness of issues the disabled face daily.
Performed in Second City’s E.T.C. space, and adopting that theater’s revue format (minus the improvisation), this production achieves its end, though only in a general way. Serpe never delves too deeply into the lives or frustrations of the disabled portrayed. And by keeping things light and sticking to the revue format, she winds up giving us only a primer for those who are able-bodied (AB) but haven’t the imagination or sensitivity to view a disabled person as an individual. Their lack of consideration becomes the major issue of the production, which presents a variety of these able-bodied morons (many of them well-meaning, all of them played by Tim O’Malley). This seems a touch condescending at first, but these characters all draw such chuckles of recognition from the disabled in the audience that it soon becomes evident the condescension may be justified. Even in the age of ADA people still come unglued when they have to deal with someone in a wheelchair.
“It’s a great form of transportation,” chirps a wheelchair saleswoman in one sketch. “It’s cost-efficient. You never have to worry about finding parking in the Loop. You can always be sure of getting a lift on the 151 Sheridan. You can drink as much as you like, because you’ll never be the designated driver.”
Other sketches concern a deaf woman at a job interview who performs rap through an interpreter, an aerobics instructor faced with a variety of disabled students (including two in wheelchairs), an office shared uneasily by an able-bodied man and two disabled women, and a blind man gulling an able-bodied woman in an art gallery. Slowly running his cane over one of the pictures, he explains the symbolism behind the colors the artist used, claiming he can see them with his “sixth sense.” “Life’s colors are best represented in the mind’s eye, which is different for everyone,” he instructs her. In another, rather mystifying sketch, a young woman in a wheelchair breaks up with her boyfriend; it’s neither funny nor thought-provoking, and leaves us with only the conclusion that even the disabled get dumped from time to time.
The ensemble is a mixed batch of amateurs and professionals, disabled and able-bodied, and their performances are as uneven as the production: sometimes funny, but never sharply so; often thoughtful, but never exploring any one issue seriously. NoBODY’S Perfect is merely a rudimentary lesson in the issues that dominate the lives of the disabled.