Tribes is a very realistic story about Billy, a young deaf man living in a hearing family. In the opening dinner scene, it is clear that his family loves him, but they don’t usually put forth the extra effort to include him in all the conversations. Billy is skilled at lip reading, but he doesn’t always catch the words the first time around. When he asks for family members to repeat themselves, they brush him off by saying, “it was something boring” or “don’t worry about it.” This makes him feel like a second class citizen and he secretly resents them.
One night, he meets Sylvia, who is also deaf. They begin dating and she teaches him sign language while bringing him into the deaf community. Billy finally feels accepted and heard. He has found his Tribe. With this new confidence, he invites Sylvia to dinner with his family. Stephen Darbicki, who plays Billy, does an excellent job of showing his personal growth throughout the play.
The dinner scene accurately portrays the situation of a family meeting a new girlfriend for the first time. “We all feel nervous”, says the mother. The father, who had always tried to keep Billy normal by keeping him away from the deaf community, begins to drill Sylvia. He ends up engaging her in a conversation about the very nature of sign language. Does sign language, by its nature, lacks subtlety? Mitch Pileggi (who you may recognize as Walter Skinner from the X-files) portrays the intensity of this inquiry expertly. He is searching for the truth.
The drama continues to build in the second act. Emotions build as Billy gets deeper into the deaf community and thus begins to leave the hearing (his family) behind. The audience feels a deep connection to his struggle to find his place in the world.
Experience this emotionally complex performance at Zach Theatre now through February 28th!