Critical Overview

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Last Updated on May 13, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 248

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Robert Brustein, writing in The New Republic, called Children of a Lesser God a "supreme example of a new Broadway genre—the Disability Play," in which, regardless of our defects, the audience learns that we all share a common humanity. He further noted that speech in this drama "operates not to inform and reveal but rather to manipulate emotions and reinforce conventional wisdom." Paul Sagona declared in Dictionary of Literary Biography that Medoff "exploits a stark, absolute communication problem," but does so "without the threat of physical violence'' or guns. Sagona identified Medoff's plays, especially Children of a Lesser God, as addressing the problem of "self-isolated personalities making themselves felt without disintegrating."

Other critical commentary centers on how the characters' inability to communicate with one another works as an effective means of illustrating both the problems caused by prejudice and those caused by language. Some critics have expressed reservations about Medoff's dramatic work, citing his tendency toward gratuitous use of violence or overly sentimental plot devices and dialogue. Children of a Lesser God has been singled out as an example of Medoff's best work, in large part because of Medoff's ability to present the demoralization of the deaf population by a generally ignorant society that assumes that those who cannot hear are somehow mentally or otherwise inferior. The stark reality and emotional intensity of the play have been praised by critics who affirm that Children of a Lesser God is evidence of Medoff's exceptional talent as a playwright.

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