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Andrea Lowry & Bailey Lomax. Photo: Walden Theatre Alumni.
Written by Eric Ulloa
Directed by Ruthie Dworin
Review by Annette Skaggs
Entire contents are copyright © 2018 by Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved.
If you are like me you remember where you were when certain global events occurred, both positive and negative. I remember where I was when the Challenger exploded when the Berlin Wall came down…when a lone gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School and began to shoot. When the smoke cleared there were 28 lives lost on that cold December day in Newtown, CT. While this horrible event happened nearly six years ago, it is still very much part of our political and social climate today.
Eric Ulloa’s play, consisting of 6 actors who take on multiple roles as townspeople of Newtown, gives us an insider’s look at the sleepy town and the events surrounding the shooting. Not only do we have what feel like first-hand accounts, the audience is also brought into the debate of “what do we do?” that we, as a nation, are still trying to figure out.
Among the townspeople are parents of the children who attended Sandy Hook, community leaders, and clergy. Some of the most riveting dialogue and deliveries came from Chase Bishop, who as a pastor of a local congregation, shared with Aaron Roitman’s Rabbi how broken he was after having to service eight funerals. Mr. Roitman’s description of the chaos was reinforced by his facial expressions. You could truly see the fright in Zoe Greenwald’s eyes as she frantically waits to hear about her child. Andrea Lowry was driven as Yulie, who spent hours cataloging the thousands of cards and gifts that descended upon Newtown. Bailey Lomax’s Angel Whisperer was endearing and Mary McNeill’s Australian transplant made me want to move there too, not to mention she can play the guitar.
While these are just a few of the characters that were portrayed, the actors did quite well in fading in and out of each role. Even though there were some times that the dialogue felt a little tentative, I give the actors their due as it often fit within the gravity of the scene, rather than a brief lapse of dialogue or “who am I playing now?”
Director Ruthie Dworin displayed good control of a play built around a topic whose wounds will never heal completely. Bryce Liebert’s use of lighting and well crafted, haunting soundbites were just right for the tone of the piece. It was not easy to watch as pictures of the 26 victims of what is now known as the Sandy Hook Massacre was displayed as the principal actors wrote each of their names down on a simple chalkboard that sat upstage right. While 26 Pebbles is referring to the teachers and students of Sandy Hook, there were two other victims of the event and the actors did their best to address that fact as well.
As I exited the house I noticed a small sign that hung by the doors that warned theatergoers that there would not be a depiction of the shooting, but there would be stimuli and/or phrases that may cause some distress. Mr. Ulloa’s play does talk of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and I thank CTC for recognizing that their production could perhaps be a trigger for the audience.
As Ms. Dworin writes in her Director’s notes, “We are here for action.” Yes, indeed we should be. Since the Newtown tragedy, there have been several more mass shootings. The play uses a snippet of President Obama’s eloquent address to the after Newtown: “God has called them all home. For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on, and make our country worthy of their memory.”
It is hard not to get a lump in your throat when those words are said or when innocent lives are lost. 26 Pebbles is a reminder that even the smallest towns can be shattered, but when we embrace each other, a greater community can emerge.
What does a pebble do when it hits the water? It ripples out. May we see a loving ripple effect in our society.
Featuring alumni Chase Bishop, Zoe Greenwald, Bailey Lomax, Andrea Lowry, Mary McNeill, Aaron Roitman.
July 6-8, 2018
Walden Theatre Alumni Company
Commonwealth Theatre Center
1125 Payne Street
Louisville, Kentucky 40206
Annette Skaggs is heavily involved as an Arts Advocate here in Louisville. She is a freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe and in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career, she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York City Opera, and Northwestern University. Her knowledge and expertise have developed over the course of 25+ years’ experience in the classical arts.