BWW Review: THE RULES OF CHARITY at Sound Theatre Company

BWW Review: THE RULES OF CHARITY at Sound Theatre Company
Andrew Litzky as Monty in The
Rules of Charity
by Sound Theatre
Company. Photo by Ken Holmes

Rules of Charity by Sound Theater Company is a production that is long overdue. Representation matters. We hear that phrase a lot and the effects of that sentiment are slowly making their way into theater. The disabled community seems to be the last group invited to join the party. Sound Theatre Company's 2018 theme of radical inclusion is on display front and center is this provocative play by John Belluso.

The Rules of Charity is the story of Monty, a man with cerebral palsy. As his disability progressed, his world shrunk to only include his adult daughter and his building's superintendent. Navigating the world has become too cumbersome for someone who is shunned for both his physical disability and for being gay. He seeks refuge in writing in his journal and sharing his books and knowledge with the superintendent, L.H., who is also his lover. Things become even more complicated when L.H. begins dating the daughter of the landlord who shows him new possibilities that her wealth and privilege hold. Monty's daughter, Loretta, comes home with a new boyfriend, Horace. The apartment is too small to hold all their secrets, dreams, and frustrations. Each character must decide what they want their future to hold and what they are willing to do to make that a reality.

Andrew Litzky (Monty) who lives with a real life disability perfectly blends a multitude of frustrations into an embittered man. He survives by carving out tiny pockets of happiness and by retreating into his journal. Litzy's performance is the foundation for everything that happens. He provides gravitas and authenticity and inspires anger and empathy. He refuses to be one-dimensional, constantly reminding us that many of the layers and struggles of life are common to us all. Sharon Barto Gouran (Loretta), Fune Tautala (Horace) and Hisam Goueli (LH/Mr. Milicent) all struggle with demons of their own. They are frustrating and heartbreaking to watch. They flail and flounder trying to make their lives tolerable all the while not believing that they deserve anything better. Maile Wong (Paz/Joyce) provides the unexpected. Her character is the one with privilege and power and options. Yet she suffers from the same insecurities and self-doubt as the rest. Watching her almost practiced speeches to convince others of her importance is like seeing the inner child play grown up.

The show's strength is the telling of the human story from an oft forgotten point of view. While inclusivity has been a catch phrase of late, the disabled community is still waiting for its turn on the dance floor. The playwright, John Belluso, said that the disabled community was endlessly fascinating to him because, "it is the one minority class in which anyone can become a member of at any time." The show deals with the struggles in a raw and genuine way. It is not always comfortable to see what happens behind the closed doors of the disabled, especially those that live on the margins of society. If there is a weakness in the show, it is that there are so many additional layers of struggles and storylines that it is impossible to digest them all. At times the side stories full focus and deserve more attention than they have been given.

If you're looking for the underdog that overcomes great odds to triumph, or the unlikely hero, you need to look somewhere else. This production is not about sugarcoating the realities of life with disabilities. This is not a Disney production. This is a slice of reality with all its beauties and flaws. The struggles are not diminished or pushed to the side but rather put on display in the bright light of day. Life with a disability is hard. Loving someone with a disability is hard, and sometimes our reserves of strength and fortitude run dry. In the end they were all perfectly flawed individuals, each unsure of their own worthiness to be loved. And there is no more universal truth than that.

The Rules of Charity, presented by Sound Theatre Company, is playing at Center Theatre through August 25th. For tix or more information, contact

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From This Author Kelly Rogers Flynt

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