"Edith" Scores a Hit in Louisville
I just got back from Kentucky where I covered the Humana Festival of New American Plays at the Actors Theatre of Louisville. This is my third consecutive festival and the best one yet. The eight productions I saw over the press-and-theatre-professionals weekend were almost all insightfully written, passionately acted, and strongly directly. The standout was "Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them," A. Rey Pamatmat's tender comedy-drama about three latchkey kids forming an improvised family when their parents effectively abandon them. Casting adult actors as children usually turns me off, but these young performers intensely portray the pain of adoloscence and the joy of achieving maturity without acquiring a case of the cutes. Teresa Avia Lim is a pint-sized fireball as the 12-year-old Edith. She powerfully conveys Edith's fierce independence and spiky intelligence. One minute she's shooting at an unknown intruder with a BB rifle, the next she's cuddling with her stuffed frog. Lim manages to make both moments and many others truthful and compelling. Equally affecting are Jon Norman Schneider as her older brother Kenny who is just discovering his gay sexuality and Cory Michael Smith as his best friend Benji who is making similar explorations. The premise had the potential of turning into a syrupy Afterschool Special, but Pamatmat wisely keeps the sentiment to a minimum. With only three characters, look for this work to show up on many regional theatre schedules and possibly in New York soon.
I also enjoyed Molly Smith Metzler's "Elemeno Pea," a wildly funny modern-day drawing comedy set among the superrich of Martha's Vineyard; Peter Sinn Machtrieb's "BOB," a sort of American pop-culture "Peer Gynt"; Jordan Harrison's "Maple and Vine," about a group of 1950s re-enactors escaping the stress of 2011; and Adam Rapp's "The Edge of Our Bodies," a monologue featuring Catherine Combs as a pregnant teenager seeking solace from a series of older men.
The only disappointing full-length piece was Anne Washburn's otherwordly "A Devil at Noon." Inspired by the life and work of cult sci-fi author Philip K. Dick, the play treads a fine line between Dick's hallunication-filled fantasies and the schmaltz of "The Twilight Zone." A PKD-like author confuses his fiction with reality when his characters begin showing up at his Berkeley apartment. Unfortunately, Washburn leaves too many loose ends dangling which blunts much of "Devil"'s trippy impact. The other two programs were composed of one-acts which I'll cover in a later blog.
I'll have more on the Humana Festival in later blogs and a full report as well as flipcam interviews with playwright-director Rapp and ATL artistic director Marc Masterson who is leaving his position at the end of the season to take over South Coast Repertory.
Photo: Teresa Avia Lim in "Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them" Credit: Michael Brosilow