“No Child” – Actors Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ April 29, 2010


Actors Theatre, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ

“No Child” Actors Theatre’s import from a successful off-Broadway run, is a touching and insightful look at what it’s like to teach forgotten and rough 10th grade Bronx kids. It’s brought vividly to life by solo performer Nilaja Sun, who plays several characters and was the teacher who opened students’ eyes to the world around them.

Sun plays not only the teacher but several students, other teachers, the principal, and a janitor, a character used as Narrator. These diverse characters and Sun’s well written summary provides amazing insight into how these students react to their education. Sun’s immediate transitions between the many people she portrays are marvelous and she makes each person distinctive.

Sun worked eight years in several New York City high schools and summarizes her experiences in “No Child.” She’s assigned to a class of forgotten misfits who have no desire to be educated until Sun’s thoughtful direction makes these students shine. Sun’s exemplary way with her students draws out pride as they become actors presenting the Australian play “Our Country’s Good” about a group of 18th century convicts and how they feel about their lives.

By opening these kids up, Sun brings out surprises in each student and at the play’s one public performance. The small audience includes some parents and friends as Sun utilizes real events in the students’ lives to reinforce the play’s importance. The actual performance proves a tearful and touching moment in Sun’s remarkable achievement as these students sparkle unexpectedly.

Sun’s writing creates composite characters that enlighten and watching Sun lovingly re-create these students and the adults around them provides insight many of us lack in understanding today’s youths.

Hal Brooks’ simple staging allows Sun to star and keeps the focus on her and the remarkable people she brings to life. Sun’s script shows the clever ways she successfully hurdles the obstacles that cloud education today.

“No Child” will leave you moved, touched, and left with wonderment at today’s kids. “No Child” continues through May 9. For tickets, call the Herberger Theater Center box office at 602-252-8497 or order online at www.actorstheatrephx.com.

Grade: A