The Dark Side of Charity

The Rules of Charity opens abruptly with a disabled man on the floor of the Center Theatre, a woman hovering over him threateningly. “Cruelty is a form of goodness,” she says, subsequently creating an off-putting tone that continues throughout the remainder of the Sound Theatre Company production. In two intense acts, the late John Belluso’s play explores the more sensitive areas of love and disability, and outlines the complexity and contradictions within the concept of charity.

The play follows the life of Morty, who lives with cerebral palsy, and his daughter who cares for him. In a differing circumstance this is the foundation for a sentimental performance, yet the play strives for a darker tone than I was anticipating. The relationship between Morty and his daughter, and even between Morty and his lover LH, highlights a critique on altruism that is both heartbreaking and compelling. We are presented with a look at charity that deters from the idealistic, and instead boldly confronts the reality of disability.

The script navigates through issues regarding homosexuality, morality, love, poverty, violence, and, of course, disability. It’s a heavy agenda, yet the script never felt rushed. The overarching themes of the play were attainable to the audience and the dialogue was both intelligent and heartwarming. I became attached to the characters as soon as the play began, and as the play progressed I found myself going through a rollercoaster of emotions. The climax was poignant, and the following scenes in Act two were gripping and intense. The only place where I felt that the script truly failed was in the final scene, as I found it predictable and unoriginal. Regardless, the script is still strong and worthy of praise.

A part of the plays genius is that the majority of it takes place in a single room: Morty and Loretta’s apartment. The setting represents an insight into the isolation and immobility people with disabilities (or depression) may face. The small space was utilized incredibly well; the props, lighting and sound effects, and most importantly, the acting, allowed me to become fully immersed in the world of this story. The lighting and sound in particular created organic transitions in the play and provided deeper insights into the characters. They not only served their purpose, they elevated the quality of the play to a point were I was able to appreciate it on a more artistic and intellectual level.

The Rules of Charity will force you to feel the same discomfort as the characters, and its for this very reason that everyone should see it. If you are interested in learning about and participating in a dialogue about disability, or simply interested in being entertained, then this play is perfect for you. Belluso’s Rules of Charity contemplates the self-serving aspects of charity while also addressing its pure selflessness. It is a contradiction that is balanced perfectly through the acting of the play. It’s a must see for everyone.

The Rules of Charity runs through August 25th at the Sound Theatre Company’s Centre Theatre at the Seattle Center Armory on 305 Harrison St. For more ticket information call (206) 880-3947 or go to .

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