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Theatre Review: Tribes


Picture a crowded house… the parents are pushing 60, and their three 20-something children are still living at home, and not happy about it. What’s more, these folks are intellectuals and artists, and they really like to argue.

This show earns a frank language advisory – many scenes would be bleeped for broadcast.

Amidst all this hair-pulling is a shy, quiet son named Billy. He’s nearly deaf, though he can follow conversation using hearing aids and reading lips. The turning point comes when Billy meets Sylvia, an attractive girl who, as it turns out, is gradually losing her hearing.

Sylvia: I still get a lot… vowels, the low frequencies, like your voice. I can still hear. It just doesn’t make sense anymore. I can’t get the consonants.

Billy has been deaf since birth, but Sylvia is keenly aware of what she’s losing, as she explains to Billy.

Sylvia: "It started a year ago… It’s going on the time now. Eventually it will all be gone. I’m not deaf yet, though.

Billy. That’s in denial.

Sylvia. Ohh. Denial is great.

Billy. It’s amazing, you know, what you can get away with, if you smile enough.

Sylvia. Yeah. I find the word ‘Really?’ come in hand.

Billy (smiling). Really? (laughter).

Billy and Sylvia are played by visiting actor Stephen Drabicki, who really is deaf, and local actress Brittni Barger, who has truly come into her own during the past year. Their scenes together are electric as the two characters bond. And director Jonathan Williams handles the multilayered mix of growing romance, family chaos and deafness with sensitivity, skillfully integrating music throughout.

This remarkable production stacks up as one of the best shows Sacramento has seen this year – and it’s one I highly recommend.

Capital Stage presents “Tribes” through October 5, 2014.