Friday, April 18, 2014
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Review: Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them

Theatre Confetti's first offering, about kids trying to be adutls, features a fine cast of adults playing kids persuasively, says critic Wendy Rosenfield.

Review: Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them

By Wendy Rosenfield

FOR THE INQUIRER

There are plays about adolescence and plays for adolescents. Theatre Confetti’s inaugural production, A. Rey Pamatmat’s Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them, aims high at adults, but its bull’s eye is a younger target audience. 

Plenty of plays with kids as their subject make an easy transition to adulthood: Paula Vogel’s How I Learned to Drive and Noah Haidle’s Mr. Marmalade are but two examples of adult works with children as their messengers. But despite what could, in certain circles, be considered “adult themes,” Pamatmat’s sincerity and the straightforward, episodic nature of his script keep Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them squarely within the realm of  Hansel and Gretel-style child-fantasy fulfillment (that’s the Grimm edition, not this year's bounty-hunting witch-chasers).

Theatre Confetti (formerly Nice People Theatre Company) offers a high-quality young-adult production with an excellent cast of grownups convincingly playing much younger characters; sensitive direction by Aaron Cromie, unafraid to linger on an emotion; and set design by Lance Kniskern that allows the actors to scramble from scene to scene and from one end of the Power Plant’s basement to the other. 

Virtually abandoned by their father after their mother’s death, Filipino-American siblings Edith (Bi Jean Ngo), 12, and Kenny (Justin Jain), 16, manage to approximate a home together, Kenny stretching their dad’s intermittent bank deposits, Edith serving as shotgun-toting sentry, both excelling in school. All the while, Kenny nurtures a budding love affair with Benji (Steve Pacek), a fellow student. 

It’s worth noting that the kids’ challenges don’t stem from their own internalized racism or homophobia; there’s no self-loathing at work here. Their trouble is that the outside world fails to understand what the trio already know: They’re doing just fine. 

And if Edith depended solely on its actors’ performances, we’d believe it all. Ngo sneezes and cries with her entire body in the unself-conscious way children do, and you can feel the gleam and heat coming off Jain and Pacek during their phone sessions, full of heavy-handed teenage innuendo and the joy of the new.

Pamatmat himself often falls victim to a heavy hand, with too many groaner lines such as, “Edith, we’re kids, just kids!” and “How can I take care of you when I can’t take care of myself?” But of course, if you’re a kid feeling the tug between dependence and independence for the first time, then it’s probably your first time hearing those lines as well.

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Presented by Theatre Confetti at The Power Plant Basement, 233 N. Bread St., through March. 24. Tickets: $10-$35. Information: www.TheatreConfetti.com 

 

 

About this blog
Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer. She also is a contributing writer for Variety and American Theatre magazine. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of four books about four playwrights (Rabe, McNally, Miller, Albee), and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). Her 'weekend' job as a travel writer provides adventure: dogsledding in the Yukon, ziplining in Belize, walking coast-to-coast across England, and cowboying in the Australian Outback.


Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.


Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.


Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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