Exploring class, disability, and love in the Off-Broadway rom-com ‘All of Me’ at Pershing Square Signature Center

In her original rom-com All of Me, playing a limited Off-Broadway engagement at The Pershing Square Signature Center following its world premiere at Barrington Stage Company in 2022, playwright Laura Winters considers the impact of family dynamics and class consciousness on two disabled characters – both using motorized mobility aids (Lucy a scooter, Alfonso a wheelchair) equipped with AAC (alternative and augmentative communication) text-to-speech technology to communicate. They meet, flirt, date, fall in love, deal with the pressure of mothers who can’t get along and don’t want them to be together, and take a break to decide what their futures will be. Presented by The New Group and directed by Ashley Brooke Monroe, it’s a funny, combative, and ultimately celebratory view of love and determination breaking free from the disruptive socio-economic biases in their families and contemporary America – not exactly a spoiler, since it is, as advertised, a feel-good rom-com, not a tragicomedy!

Madison Ferris and Danny J. Gomez. Photo by Monique Carboni.

An engaging cast of six, led by Madison Ferris as Lucy and Danny J. Gomez as Alfonso, brings to life the distinctive personalities and their motivations with humor, emotion, and psychological insight into what drives them, and leaves us rooting for the couple and a happy ending despite their differences. A former emerging jazz singer, she is razor-sharp and acerbic in her hilarious no-holds barred comments and responses, but also very aware of the financial difficulties she and her family face and concerned about getting a job as a greeter at Walmart that might cause her to lose the security of her Medicaid. Recently relocated from Manhattan to Schenectady for his position as a scientific researcher, he is upper-class and well educated, thoughtful, sensitive, and understanding, encouraging her to move in with him, to enroll in community college classes, and to envision a better future for herself. They make an irresistible pair, as they come together, touch, kiss, have candid sexual discussions via AAC, and try to resolve their disagreements through the inspiration of song (as inferred by the play’s title, referencing the 1931 jazz standard), in an adult coming-of-age journey that keeps you laughing and touches your heart.

Madison Ferris and Kyra Sedgwick. Photo by Monique Carboni.

In the role of Lucy’s working-class mother Connie, the riotous Kyra Sedgwick is relentlessly domineering, pious, and outspoken, but embarrassed to acknowledge her own physical disability or to use a cane to support her bad back, leaving most of the household’s cooking and care to her elder daughter Jackie. By contrast, Florencia Lozano as Alfonso’s mother Elena, a wealthy, successful, bilingual lawyer based in NYC, visits her son to help him get settled into his new luxurious home, enjoys relaxing in her off hours with wine and other substances, and is patronizing in her forced interactions with Connie, with whom she remains at odds, discouraging her son from pursuing his relationship with Lucy and suggesting he contact his former girlfriend.

Danny J. Gomez and Florencia Lozano. Photo by Monique Carboni.

Rounding out the terrific cast are Lily Mae Harrington as Jackie, following in the footsteps of the younger Lucy as an aspiring jazz singer (though not as talented, as seen in a brief comical segment of her concert performance), resentful of all the work she has to do around the house, and anxious to marry, even on a shoe-string budget, so she can escape her life there; and Brian Furey Morabito as Moose, her live-in soon-to-be-husband – a flattering slacker whom she enables and forgives, who fills his time with internet poker, can’t stand being there, and can’t wait to move out. He unwittingly sets off an explosive climax, the result of a bad (but profitable!) secret scheme masterminded by Lucy that is unexpectedly exposed on his and Jackie’s wedding day (which also happens to be Lucy’s birthday, since the reception venue is cheaper on Thursday).

Madison Ferris and Brian Furey Morabito. Photo by Monique Carboni.

Will the wedding proceed? Will the out-of-touch Alfonso, who won’t yet answer Lucy’s calls, attend? Will he remember her birthday? And will they come to an understanding and reignite their love for one another? While some of the plotlines seem laughably contrived, the overall effect is entertaining and uproarious, while inherently addressing serious issues of diversity and acceptance versus insulting and dismissive attitudes.

Madison Ferris, Kyra Sedgwick, and Lily Mae Harrington. Photo by Monique Carboni.

The show’s artistic design effectively defines the status of the characters, with a set by Brett Banakis and Edward T. Morris that easily shifts from the hospital’s outpatient loading zone where Lucy and Alfonso first meet, to the interior of her family’s modest home, with a doorway too narrow for a wheelchair to fit through and a makeshift wooden ramp between rooms for her scooter, to the sleek living room of his easily accessible, tastefully appointed, upscale house, and the other locales in their story, all enhanced by Reza Behjat’s lighting. Costumes by Sarah LeFeber are also indicative of the characters’ strikingly different economic circumstances, as well as the sudden windfall from Lucy and Moose’s untoward plan, which affords the family’s formal wedding attire. And Matt Otto’s clear sound design is central to the theme of speaking through AAC and singing the meaningful jazz songs and lyrics.

In conjunction with this must-see production, The New Group is offering a slate of talkbacks and initiatives, aimed at increasing accessibility and enhancing the experience of the show. For the full calendar, visit the website.

Running Time: Approximately two hours and five minutes, including an intermission.

Photo by Serge Nivelle.

All of Me plays through Sunday, June 16, 2024, at the Pershing Square Signature Center, The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre, 480 West 42nd Street, NYC. For tickets (priced at $37-99, including fees), call (917) 935-4242, or go online.

Before you go, you can watch the trailer here:

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here