In Jackson, a small town in rural Indiana, Elizabeth Ann Willow lives with her father and mother. Crippled at birth with polio, Elizabeth Ann is confined to a wheelchair and must wear leg braces, which cuts her off from the other children and prevents her regular attendance at school. Although she tries to reach out and make friends, Elizabeth Ann is increasingly isolated from and then taunted by the others, whose small-town prejudices are reinforced by a polio scare, of which Elizabeth Ann is a chilling embodiment.
Comprised of a brilliantly conceived mosaic of interlocking scenes which move back and forth in time, with four performers portraying a varied assortment of children and townspeople, the play captures not only the moving story of Elizabeth Ann’s inexorable descent into madness, but also the small-mindedness and unfeeling callousness of her fellow townspeople—whose fear of the unknown or abnormal makes them the unintentional agents of her destruction. Culminating in a chilling scene in which Elizabeth Ann’s leg braces are torn from her by a frenzied mob, the play becomes in the final essence a moving and poetically evocative plea for understanding and compassion in a world where prejudice and casual cruelty are too often the norm.