Autism Spectrum Disorder, ranges from savant to non-verbal and affects about 1% of the population; mostly males. During our years driving school buses; we were consistently given routes that shuttled ‘special needs’ students. We became familiar with both ends of the ambit. Given our familiarity with the syndromes, it always bothered us that such TV shows as ‘Bones’ or ‘Big Bang Theory’ displayed some symptoms for humor rather than understanding. Awareness might lead to understanding but both shows missed an opportunity.
Back in 2007, our friend Lynn Johnston’s cartoon series, ‘For better or For Worse’ described ‘Shannon’ who was autistic.
Shannon’s pithy observations went a long way to de-stigmatize the characterization and encourage understanding.
Matteo Esposito has written a short (30 minute) play that utilizes four characters to do what Johnston did just over a decade ago. He unsubtly shows some of the compulsive obsessions that are intrinsic to an ASD individual, fortunately without over-emphasizing them…they are inherent but not the major aspect of such a personality. ‘Nick’ (Esposito himself) has a helper and Bob Cook’s’ ‘Bob’ is understanding without patronizing his ward. A friend, portrayed by Ivan Buzelli is bringing his own son — Ed, for a brief check-out visit with Nick. Without a ‘spoiler’, Garrett Scott’s Ed seems to be facing something medically precarious himself. His lack of empathy or understanding on witnessing Nick’s behavior mirrors what is probably the expected response for most of us…discomfort or else — mockery. Our own reception — visceral!
The play is performed with five brief scenes that seem vignette in style and are somewhat disjointed. But, overall, the audience ‘gets’ the message of tolerance and especially perception and pathos — not pity. The play was performed for one night only at St. Thomas Aquinas H.S.
We think the one-stage quartet and crew should consider offering this important half-hour to local school boards as an educational tool. Knowledge is comprehension; thus is acceptance.
BTW, Matteo Esposito IS physically & psychologically challenged. He knows whereof he writes.