Saturday, July 28, 2012

KC Fringe "Amish Project" review by Detailer

Amish Project inspires
Rating: 4

Amish Project
KC Fringe Festival

Jessica Franz plays several characters to explore emotions after a shooting in an Amish schoolhouse.

Jessica makes good distinction between the characters, and balances the show with humor, drama, poignancy, and gentle lightness.  I am glad I came.

Her style is interesting.  There are moments when she actually comes out into the audience and speaks to its members, but most of the time she directs her monologues with a more general focus on a defined physical stage.  The two approaches work well together and allow me to feel close to her characters immediately while giving me privacy for the emotional moments.  I feel like she is speaking honestly, naturally, to me personally.

I appreciate the seamless way she flows from one character into another, usually starting each character in a specific place on stage, which is that character’s home base. That helps me identify who is talking.  She is able to intersperse her characters quickly because she doesn’t need to change costume—she defines her characters by voice and physicality, and often the location in which each character starts speaking.  This ability is especially helpful later in the show when her characters start interrupting each other; she is able to make that work with good effect.

Jessica uses the small space so well, with interesting placement and levels.  I particularly like how she uses the literal elements of the space to complete her environment—the entrance door to the theater becomes her door, the narrow space between a column and the wall becomes a unique area just right for how she uses it.  I always like levels, so I appreciate the multiple uses of the bench.  I was glad that she opened up the space farther than I have seen it; I like the added depth of an upstage area.  That makes me feel less claustrophobic, and gives her space to use different movements like running and jumping.  Her staging of the shots is very effective.

It is a wise choice to open with a child’s delight.  I like drama which lets me feel close to the character and happy about the character before anything bad happens.  She returns to the child often to lift me up from the darker moments.

Jessica presents several different viewpoints about the crime and the person who committed it. These offer varied perspectives and reveal prejudice, judgment, and forgiveness.  The wife of the killer talks about the miracle of still loving him and how she misses him, and the poignancy with which she admits this is very moving.  That makes an insult hurled at her even more horrible to hear.  I like the child’s explanation of what JOY means.  There are many other powerful, poignant, inspiring moments.

I learn some things about Amish belief and way of life, and I get some inkling of why some outsiders have negative feelings about it.  I would like a fuller exploration of why they forgive, and I missed the word that was so all-important.  I care enough about the child that I want to know what happens to her, but I don’t get a resolution of the incident.   I was never bored, but at the end I had an unsatisfied feeling that I didn’t quite get closure.

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