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Show Of Week

November 30, 1986

"LOVE IS NEVER SILENT," 9-11 p.m. Monday (4)(36)(39)--What a knockout production this is. And what a welcome repeat.

Deservedly winning 1986 Emmys for best special and best direction (by Joseph Sargent), NBC's "Love Is Never Silent" is the complete package: a warm, wonderful, cliche-smashing, acutely perceptive story and standing ovation-quality acting by Ed Waterstreet and Phyllis Frelich as a deaf couple and Mare Winningham as their daughter. It premiered last December.

The setting is the 1930s and 1940s. Resentments flare as Margaret Ryder begins edging away from her parents after being their bridge to a hearing world that largely regards them as "deaf and dumb." The parents feel suddenly adrift, unconnected and more isolated than ever from a society that views them with ignorance and suspicion. And Margaret is at once emotionally attached to her parents and desirous of an independent life with her husband.

In one sense, this "Hallmark Hall of Fame" offering is a universal story about family tensions arising when a child seeks to disengage and leaves the parental nest. In another more powerful sense, though, it's an off-center track leading its hearing audience through uncharted, illuminating realms.

The performances are something to root about. Besides speaking Margaret's lines, Winningham also must speak many of the parents' lines while interpreting in American Sign Language. Waterstreet and Frelich are both deaf, and Frelich, in particular, just puts you away. She's an actress bearing surprises and revelations, with something to say and special means of expression.

The cast also includes Sid Caesar as a family friend, and Cloris Leachman makes her few minutes count as Margaret's mother-in-law.

The script is written by Darlene Craviotto and based on a Joanne Greenberg book whose rights were obtained by Julianna Fjeld, a deaf actress who appears in the story and is co-executive producer with Marian Rees. All merit cheers.

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