By A. Rey Pamatmat
Directed by Neill Robertson
Review By Jane Mattingly
Entire contents copyright © 2015 by Jane Mattingly. All rights reserved.
I was very excited that this show came back to Louisville so soon, especially in Pandora’s careful, capable hands. I saw the 2011 Humana Festival production and adored it, expected to love it again, and Pandora’s rendering did not let me down. A. Rey Pamatmat’s script is a heavy story that is easier to digest than it might imply — a young brother and sister abandoned by their one living parent, surviving on little money, while the older brother’s boyfriend has to keep their relationship a secret from his overbearing mother. These three protagonists work together to carry this tough script with strength and understanding, and it is clear that Neill Robertson’s precision and dedication carry over from his well-known acting abilities to his directing.
I love the Henry Clay theater — the stage is large enough that the actors and designers have plenty of room to play, but it’s intimate enough that the audience can really feel everything, and there is a lot to feel with this one. Each inch of the space is used effectively, allowing the small cast of three to create a big show. Eric Allgeier’s set design surrounds Edith and Kenny’s living room with the splintery wooden barn walls and lots of open space at the top, perfectly suiting the plays themes of protection and emptiness. The early 90’s living room has clutter, but it is neatly stacked under tables and out of the way — very “swept under the rug,” as Kenny’s character tends to do with his pain.
As Kenny, Christophe Leong evokes a young man forced ahead of his time, too advanced to fully give himself over to his own awkward teenage years. He maintains a cool, controlled demeanor, which only crackles when he is worrying about Edith, or when he is pushed to the limit and finally breaks down in some exceptionally powerful moments in Act 2. The two other characters being Kenny’s sister and boyfriend, the absolute closest people to him, Leong captures which vulnerabilities each of them bring out of him — the consuming concern for Edith, the sexual desire for Benji, and the deepest love for them both.
As usual, Trent Evertt Byers is consistent and comfortable on stage from beginning to end, offering an adorably tidy and soft-spoken Benji, carefully avoiding a nerd caricature. One particular strength of his is his timing and subtle delivery. A. Rey Pamatmat has written a few gems for this character, and Byers just lets them glide right out before you ever see them coming. The show stopped dead at least two or three times from surprised roaring and even some “oooh!” “damn!” “yeaaaah!”s from the audience.
As expected, most of the comic relief comes from Edith, and Jessica Javier completely gives herself over to the physicality and attitude of a 12-year old who, like her brother, is wise beyond her years, but Edith has not yet completely crossed over into adulthood. Javier skillfully captures the way this character shifts — or jumps, really — from practical to imaginative. She talks to her stuffed frog, Ferguson (Fergie) about another planet where they’re from, but she can cook, learn her choir solos in German, and never has trouble with her math homework. She is fiery and relentless, and rarely lets her guard down in front of anyone besides Fergie, and when she does, it’s honest and heartbreaking. She snatches us up right from the start and never lets go.
The only weakness that stands out to me has more to do with the text, not the performance, where Edith expresses wanting to “fly away” a few times. It’s just an overdone expression to me, and while it makes sense and leads to a crucial moment in the play, it seems like the cheapest possible way to get there. I felt Javier allowed those lines to be a bit cheesy, but I don’t know if there’s much of a way around it. If there were other flaws, this strong, honest cast made sure I missed them, because this piece is a treasure.
Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them
Friday, March 5, 6, 7, 12, 13 & 14, 2015 @ 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 8 & 15, 2015 @ 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 14th @ 2:00 p.m.
At The Henry Clay Theatre
604 S. Third St., third floor
Louisville, KY 40202
[box_light]Jane Mattingly grew up on the ballet stage but got mixed up with some theatre folks along the way and hasn’t looked back. A Louisville native and former LEO Weekly contributor, Jane holds a BA in English from the University of Louisville and has acted and directed with local theatre companies such as The Bard’s Town, Finnigan Productions, The Alley Theater, and WhoDunnit. She works as a baker and enjoys square dancing and hiking. [/box_light]