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Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them

a Comedy/Drama
CATEGORY :
by A. Rey Pamatmat

COMPANY : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
ID# 4152

SHOWING : October 27, 2011 - November 26, 2011

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

A National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere

Abandoned by their father, sixteen year-old Kenny cares for his little sister Edith on an isolated farm in middle America. As Kenny and his best friend Benji begin falling in love, the three form an unlikely family. But when the outside world threatens to disrupt their lives, the spunky Edith takes aim and fires away. This funny and tender play tackles growing up, staying young and falling in love.

PATRON ADVISORY: Audiences with allergies should be advised that there is wheat straw being used in the scenery for Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them. Additionally, in accordance with local fire code, straw has been thoroughly flameproofed.


CAST & CREW LIST
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REVIEWS

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Family Ties
by Dedalus
Thursday, December 1, 2011
3.0
Whatever you do, don’t mess with Edith. A spunky 12-year old, she carries a pellet rifle and a stuffed frog, though it’s not obvious which one she’d use in an emergency (well, until an emergency comes up).

Such is the set-up of A. Rey Pamatmat’s “Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them,” now onstage at Actors Express. Perhaps it’s good that Edith can shoot and hit, as she lives alone with her 16-year old brother, Kenny. Their mother has died, and their father has chosen to live elsewhere, his idea of “good parenting” being an occasional deposit into their ATM account.

This potentially tragic set-up is complicated when Kenny and his “study buddy,” Benji, fall in love. Benji is the polar opposite of Kenny and Edith – totally Mom-sheltered, he can hardly dress himself, let alone survive as independent not-quite adult. (It’s a constant surprise to him all the things Edith and Kenny can do – like cook and clean and still have time for homework.) The complication comes when Benji’s sheltering Mom reacts badly to his burgeoning sexuality and boots him out.

And then, wouldn’t you know it, Dad and his new girlfriend decide to “come home” just when Benji and Kenny are romping around in their tighty-whities and Edith is on guard duty.

I have to confess to a lot of ambivalence about this piece. Although I think the set-up is clever and the characters sharply drawn, too often they talk like grown-ups, not like kids in a grown-up situation. Worse, actors Rose Le Tran (Edith) and Ralph Del Rosario (Kenny) are much older than their characters, and too often come across as “adults playing at being children” rather than like true youngsters. Ms. Le Tran also has the unfortunate habit of delivering too many of her lines evenly paced and pitched, giving more of a recitation than a performance. Tucker Weinmann, on the other hand, is consistently appealing as Benji, innocent and surprised at all the new sensations adolescence is bringing him.

I also didn’t like how the script strains to keep adults off stage. Other than some ominous shadows at the end of the first act, all we see are the three kids, parents being absent, “in the other room,” or “waiting in the car.” While I suppose this tends to focus our attention on the three at the center of the story, it also makes the “willing suspension of disbelief” harder to achieve, makes them appear more like adults than like children. The fact that they speak in the same rhythms, the same voice, does not help matters

Then again, the play contains a lot of sequences of compelling observation, of adolescent surprise, and, at its climax, a sequence of breath-taking suspense that literally had me on the edge of my seat.

Maybe my lukewarm response has something to do with my own fatherhood. Although I can respond to the family dynamics created by Edith, Kenny, and Benji, and respect the strength of character needed for their (sorta) success, I can’t help but scoff at the playwright’s casual acceptance of the situation, the “letting the father off the hook” for his blatant abandonment (echoed by the actions of Benji’s Mother). It’s as if he’s creating a world where this is the norm rather than the heavily-sanctioned exception.

And, I really had a hard time accepting the blithely happy ending, in which nothing has really changed for the protagonists. This is a subject that screams for heavier drama, higher stakes. Maybe even for a set that isn’t so comfortable and blandly ordinary – it seems more like a kid’s clubhouse than like an abandoned farmhouse that threatens to consume its inhabitants. I never worried for these kids, and, given the subject matter, I really should have.

On the other hand, I can’t say that I had a lousy time at this show. It moves quickly and has many moments of real pleasure. Much of the dialogue rings like true kid-speak, and Edith is definitely a character that lingers in your memory.

So, even if Edith can hit the things she shoots at, Mr. Pamatmat’s aim could use a little more tweaking.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)


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