“Dancing Lessons” Review: A Touching Play About Love and Autism

Dancing Lessons is about regular people falling in love. No billionaire with a penchant for BDSM falling for a college senior, or the captain of the basketball team and a member of the decathlon team sharing sparks in a school musical. Dancing Lessons proves that if you have a good story, it doesn’t matter that one is an injured Broadway dancer and the other has autism.

In the play, Ever is a professor with Asperger’s Syndrome who has extreme intimacy issues. By extreme, he can’t shake hands, hug, or even dance. When he is asked to host an upcoming awards banquet, he asks his neighbor Senga, a feisty performer who may never see the stage again after an injury. What may seem like a recipe for disaster turns out to be a sweet and touching love story. One that I won’t forget for a while.

When a story is anchored on its leads and their conditions, much is expected of its actors. Jill Pena and Randy Villarama are stunning as Senga and Randy. Pena deftly channels the character, elegantly flowing from fury to exasperation, curiosity, and vulnerability. You literally watch her open herself up on stage, taking us on her journey of her growing up years and life on Broadway.

She is matched scene per scene by Villarama, who perfectly captures the nuances of Ever’s condition. He is aware of his intelligence but oblivious to the subtleties of human interaction. His performance is breathtaking, as he bares his autism for all to see. His growth is poignant, as Senga tries to break down walls that may not be possible to break. Sharp-eyed viewers will observe Villarama’s dedication to his role, including small tics that are easy to miss but integral to the character.

Francis G. Matheu directs these powerhouse actors well. The staging is simple but set designer Kayla Teodoro creates a beautiful set that allows this story to unfold, giving space for the actors to breathe and to showcase sequences showing Senga’s previous dancing abilities.

I enjoyed Dancing Lessons because it was nakakakilig. Sure, Senga gave dancing lessons to Ever. But the play also gave us lessons on how love can change people for the better.


This story is in partnership with Twin Bill Theater. Dancing Lessons runs from August 16-17 to August 21-24, 2019 at the Power Mac Center Spotlight. Tickets are available on TicketworldFor more information, follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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