“Tribes” at the Studio Theatre in Washington, D.C. has something to say which I need to hear. I have seen many plays at the Studio Theatre but I must say this is one of my all-time favorites. “Tribes,” written by Nina Raine tells the story of a young man, deaf from birth, raised in a hearing family. The play unearths the complex layers in family, language, ability, disability, and acceptance.
The play’s visual, musical, and linguistic details stun with their poetic beauty. We get occasional sign language translations above the set, smartly chosen musical interludes, well-placed silences, and brilliant acting from James Caverly, Helen Cespedes, Richard Gallagher, Nancy Robinette, and Michael Tolaydo. Director David Muse found just the right colors, textures, and lights to make this family, and their biases, sadnesses, and loves– all come alive.
We get a sense of the distinction between being deaf and the Deaf. We get a survey of the nuances in the Deaf community– those born deaf, those who lose their hearing, those with varying levels of hearing, those born to hearing families, those born to Deaf families. This is a world I know little about, even though I live in Washington, D.C., home to Gallaudet University, the nation’s premier university for the deaf.
Nina Raine has written a magnificent play and David Muse and the Studio Theatre has performed it beautifully. If you’re in Washington, D.C. get to see it. You will not regret it.
Photo Credit: Studio Theatre