Autism, as seen onstage

A new play depicts a scientist's struggle to understand her autistic teenager

Melinda Wenner
Nov 1, 2007
Lucy is a profoundly touching play running at Manhattan's Ensemble Studio Theatre in which the title role -- Lucy -- is a 13-year-old autistic girl. Raised by her father, Lucy struggles when she is forced to move in with her estranged mother Vivian, a famous anthropologist who has no interest in being a full-time mom.
The relationship between Lucy and Vivian is, at first, explosive. Vivian is wrought with questions about what autism is, how it comes about and how to best care for an autistic child, all of which are contentious issues in science today. It becomes immediately clear that Canadian actor and playwright Damien Atkins, who wrote the play after visiting a school for autistic children, has done his homework. For example, at first, Vivian becomes convinced that Lucy's illness is linked to the ethyl mercury she received in her childhood vaccinations, but Lucy's psychologist points...