NoHo Arts Review of “Accommodation”

June 29, 2023

The plight of teachers’ rights seems to be a permanently reoccurring headline at present. Regardless of which ‘side’ of the arguments you are on for better pay, freedom of curriculum, deference to their expertise and respect in general for their profession, there is surely one thing not up for debate -what is best for our children. 

“Accommodation” examines the system at its extremes. A young man with learning disabilities, ADHD, is failing his science class and at risk of losing his position on the swim team, his projected championship wins and his path to university and beyond.  His concerned mother, clearly a parent intensely involved in her son’s academic life, asks for a meeting with the principle and the science teacher to discuss his progress and how she can help him complete the class.  Something admirable, from one parent to another. Although I have sat in meetings with teachers who seemed to care less about my opinions. In retrospect, there may have been more to that than met my eye. But parents are hard wired to only think about their own child and their own child’s needs. And so there is the conundrum. Are we the ones best suited to make judgements on how our children should be educated? I don’t know the answer to this. Sometimes we are and sometimes we are not, is the best I can do. But in this specific situation, and the nuances of this story, the student, the parent, the teacher and the disability, we are still left with more questions than answers. Which is perhaps the purpose of theatre.

During the meeting, to which the teacher is of course late, the parents’ insistence on her son Michael’s legally required ‘accommodations’ in class become the debate. If we allow him this extra time, the extra direction, the extra extra extra, will this in fact put him at more of a disadvantage in life? Setting him up for failure? This is the argument of the tired, overworked teacher who has indeed made every accommodation and more to him. Repeatedly. With the result being more delays, less time to other students and in the end, a failed class. Her argument is, if Michael doesn’t ever fail, regardless of why, will he learn the consequence of failure? And, as we all know, the consequences of failure can be the greatest lesson of all.

The meeting dissolves into accusations, mud slinging, and in the end, a fraught physical reaction by the teacher.  Which is a disaster for her…and the end of a long and hard-won, highly awarded career.

There are revelations that bring understanding to everyone’s position. The teacher, the parent, the principle, and most importantly the student.  But there is no distraction from the theme. Do we do more harm than good by ‘accommodating’ particular ‘disabilities’ in school? As a citizen, I could say yes.But, as a parent, I would probably say no, in spite of the evidence.

“Accommodation” is a brilliantly devised play. Specific, intense, a moment in time story, lives spinning on a reflex, pivoting on a crack in person under intense pressure. What fascinated me most was the much more gentle unfolding of the outcome, after the explosive central event. Who became the most understanding, the most forgiving, and in the end the wisest.

The performances are wonderful. Each actor brings something acutely special to their roles. Layers and layers of understanding and revelation. Darkness and light swirling in every line. The pressure on everyone to perform to their absolute highest level at all times is exhausting and unachievable and utterly human.  I found a connection in everyone. Which is quite an achievement for writer, actor and director.  There are no bad guys, and also no winners. Which is, I think, the point. And it is superbly made. 

“Accommodation” is an extraordinary play. Truly. And this cast of brilliant, mostly female actors is absolutely incredible. They leave it all on the stage, as they say, with their riveting and poignant performances.  As a woman, I would also like to add that the fact that everyone, except the student, is female in this piece which was a stroke of genius. They fight each other and themselves, torn between the instinct to save and the instinct to teach. And I relate completely. Brilliant. 

“Accommodation” runs at The lovely Odyssey Theatre for the next couple of weeks and you should absolutely see this fantastic play!!!