The Boy in the Moon follows a set of parents as they deal with the struggles of raising a non-communicative, severely-delayed child who has one of the rarest of genetic disorders. This play explores what it means to be human and what it takes to love someone unconditionally.
Should You See It?
If you knew your child would spend a lifetime with intellectual disabilities, a misshapen face, restricted communication abilities, heart defects, and a host of other frightening symptoms, would you go through with your pregnancy? This is the first of many heartbreaking and difficult questions asked in The Boy in the Moon, a new play by Emil Sher based on the book by the same name.
The book was written by Ian Brown, a Globe and Mail columnist and father of Walker, a boy with cardiofaciocutaneous syndrome. Brown’s intellectual style of writing comes across clearly in this adaptation but feels detached and sterile off the page. The play is structured as a memoir so these artistic choices work but they are not what I was expecting for a night at the theater. I was expecting a couple crying in a delivery room, tired parents screaming out of impatience and frustration, the miraculous joy of watching a child’s breakthrough, and lots of high emotions.
The Boy in the Moon does not take us through a day in the life of Walker in this sense rather it paints Walker’s life – from premature baby to his eventual placement in a care home – in broad strokes, peppered with the types of existential questions his parents dealt with on a daily basis. Important scenes are effectively highlighted by sketches of Walker projected onto a screen.
What is most interesting about this play is how vividly we get a sense of Walker despite his character never being on stage. The end scene in particular is powerful as we realize that we feel like Walker’s been with us from the start, and is now as much a part of us as he is a part of his own family.
As we stand with Ian Brown and his wife, we get a sense of their being overwhelmed, resigned, and lost in a tornado of specialists and an unthinkable situation that almost seems unreal. The magic of this show is in how the otherworldly soundscape provided by Samuel Sholdice and the rotating cast of supporting characters portrayed by Marion Day create this atmosphere. Day deftly changes from Walker’s sister to caregiver to doctor without missing a beat. Her acting is simple but effective in providing us with a colorful background for Walker’s parent’s struggles and Sholdice’s music is very moving.
The Boy in the Moon does an excellent job taking the audience somewhere deep and meaningful in exploring questions of humanity, compassion, understanding, and love with the straightforward but also complex story of parents of a very special child. The Boy in the Moon can change your way of looking at the world as Walker surely did for those around him.
But that’s just what I thought and I’d love to hear your opinion. Was The Boy in the Moon a philosophical exercise in the meaning of life, or was it a sensitive story of the struggles of raising a child with difficulties? Have you read Brown’s columns or book – if so, how did this live up to the source material? Did The Boy in the Moon inspire, enlighten, move, shock, or bore you? Let us know in the comments below!
The Boy in the Moon runs at the Great Canadian Theatre Company, now through October 5th. More details.