Chicago Theatre Review
Judgement Not Allowed
Handicap This! – Step Up Productions
Most people don’t realize that the largest group of minorities in the nation are those who fall under the category of being handicapped. It’s a label that carries with it a preconceived image and an instant reaction that prevents others from seeing the individual as a person. As certain wise young man says, “When they see me, all they see is my wheelchair. The don’t even try looking past my physical limitations to see the me inside!” It’s a sad state of affairs, but Americans (possibly most people in the world) judge everybody by their appearance, lumping everyone together as a category and making instant conclusions about based upon what they see, instead of getting to know the person within.
Mike Berkson, born with cerebral palsy, and his best friend and constant companion, Tim Wambach (who made news by running 717 miles from Illinois to Florida, in order to raise awareness for CP), have written and been performing their two-person show around the country now for several years. They’ve played town halls, schools and theatre venues all across America. This inspiring 70-minute performance piece, now in Chicago for a very limited engagement, is part storytelling, part comedy routine, part multimedia presentation and all about one special, true friendship. The production also offers so much insight and information, not only about CP, but about all disabilities and the courageous individuals living with them. As the two young men very wisely point out, every one of us has his own disabilities; it’s just that some are more obvious than others. To find any positives in living with cerebral palsy would seem difficult, if not downright impossible; however, Mr. Berkson and Mr. Wambach easily succeed in their mission with a performance that’s both heartwarming and humorous.
Many interesting anecdotes about Mike Berkson’s life are told by both men, often illustrated through a nicely-photographed powerpoint show. This scripted performance almost feels spontaneous, and includes funny moments like “Mike’s Top Nine List,” “how Mike uses the bathroom” and a comic, very affecting dance break. We learn that Mike is a voracious reader of memoirs and crime stories and that he loves most films, his favorite being “Pulp Fiction.” The dynamic duo share the stage for most of the performance, however each performer enjoys a short break, while giving the floor to his partner for a solo story, or two. Following the performance, Mike and Tim offer the audience the opportunity to ask questions and offer their own comments and stories.
This is an evening that’ll educate, stimulate and motivate its audience to react to and think differently about the country’s largest minority. After meeting Mike and Tim, instead of just noticing the wheelchair, theatergoers will become more sensitive to the individual sitting in it. Reminding the audience that judgement isn’t allowed when it comes to the handicapped, audiences will enjoy sharing the trek these two buddies have taken over the years and will cheer their continued success and bravery.
Reviewed by Colin Douglas
Presented January 21-25 by Step Up Productions and the Keep On Keeping On Foundation at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago.
Additional information about this and other area productions can be found by visiting www.theatreinchicago.com.