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Play About Autism's Impact on Family Draws Critical Acclaim

Tim Boyer's picture

Reviews are out about a new play that addresses one of the lesser-discussed issues in the media about autism - what it’s like for a family when a beautiful autistic child grows up to become a not-always-so-gentle giant.

The stage play “Falling” is the brainchild of Deanna Jent, a mother of an autistic child herself who draws upon her experiences with autism to create what reviewers are calling a “heartfelt and nuanced family drama shot through with dark humor.”

“Falling” centers on an overly-large, autistic, 18-year-old named Josh who lives at home with his parents and whose outbreaks of tantrums have evolved from barely manageable earth tremors to volcanic violent eruptions that place his parents at risk of serious physical injury.

The play reveals the wear and tear both emotionally and physically that autism has played on their lives as they seek to find ways to maintain calm in their son as well as how to smother his explosions to reduce the amount of collateral damage. In at least one scene during a fit, Josh winds up choking his mother.

The play also reveals the inner torment of multiple characters where “what is best for Josh” is hindered by “what is desired by the heart” in spite of the amount of family suffering that threatens to dissolve the family unit like a tidal wave over a sand castle of all who are in Josh’s autistic wake.

Sacrifice in multiple ways faced by members of a family with an autistic child is another theme revealed in the play. One of the more-telling lines written in reviews is during a scene between Josh's resentful, normal younger sister with the mother where the mother tells her “You can hate him, but moms don’t have that choice.”

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Like many families, the play’s family also includes a near-outsider in the form of a visiting relative who has her own views and opinions about what is right and what is wrong with the family, that can be as destructive and as painful as one of Josh’s fits.

But if there is one person that all of the reviews resonate with, it is the role of the mother of an autistic child who has learned how to perform like a juggler with hands capable of handling multiple objects both with sharp objects and soft edges all at the same time—something that the reviewers say that audience members will find recognizable in themselves if they have ever had to watch a beloved family member suffer an illness.

Reviews of the play “Falling” are available at the following links:

The New York Post

Theater Mania


Talkin’ Broadway

Image Source: Courtesy of MorgueFile