On paper, Mark Medoff's 1979 drama Children of a Lesser God might sound like an outworn issue play, tackling the way the hearing impaired were treated in the Jimmy Carter era by their loved ones as well as institutional systems. For better or worse, however, it's still relevant, as revealed by its first Broadway revival (now at Studio 54), not only in regard to its portrayal of the deaf community, but also its more general depiction of people who challenge cultural norms and get encouraged to conform.
In the play, a deaf woman, Sarah, and a speech therapist, James, fall in love, get married, and break up. When they meet, he's teaching the deaf to speak and read lips at the institute where she works and studies, and she refuses to do either. James has outmoded ideals, about helping those who are different to adapt to the mainstream, while Sarah just wants to be herself. And these conflicts, between the hearing and the non-hearing, divide Sarah and James culturally and thus push them apart romantically, ultimately proving irreconcilable. Almost 40 years after its publication, Children of a Lesser God remains an excellent drama, with knottily human characters navigating realistic relationships amid complicated circumstances.