Review: The Amish Project (American Theater Company)

| September 29, 2011 | 2 Comments
Sadieh Rifai - The Amish Project - Jessica Dickey - PJ Paparelli
The Amish Project

Written by Jessica Dickey  
Directed by PJ Paparelli
at American Theater, 1909 W. Byron (map)
thru Oct 23 30  | tickets: $35-$40  | more info

Check for half-price tickets
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Now extended thru October 30!

Unforgettably unique and uplifting – don’t miss it!!


Sadieh Rifai is unforgettable in American Theater Company's 'The Amish Project,' by Jessica Dickey, directed by PJ Paparelli. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)

American Theater Company presents
The Amish Project

Review by Katy Walsh 

On October 2, 2006, ten Amish girls were shot in their classroom.  The massacre stunned the nation.  But what occurred next, really was shocking.  The Amish community forgave the assailant.  The American Theatre Company presents The Amish Project.  Based on the actual events in Nickel Mine, Pennsylvania, Playwright Jessica Dickey retells the story from different Sadieh Rifai is unforgettable in American Theater Company's 'The Amish Project,' by Jessica Dickey, directed by PJ Paparelli. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)community members’ perspective.  A young Amish girl playing with chalk.  A woman watching the news on her treadmill.  The University professor acting as media spokesperson.  The widow shopping for moisturizer.  A pregnant teenager preparing for a speech.  The milkman not finishing his route.  Each point of view starts from an ordinary day-in-the-life-of and then reacts to the horror.  In the aftermath, the Amish community asks for donations to the killer’s widow and sons.  The merciful gesture ripples through the town.  The impact is extraordinary!  And in this show, it’s more astonishing because the entire community is played by one woman.  The Amish Project inspires for its simplistic and abstract truths.

Sadieh Rifai is phenomenal!  Under the skillful direction of PJ Paparelli, Rifai’s range is impressive.  From the beginning, she captivates as a precocious young girl.  Later, she disturbs as the gunman describing the beauty of his young victims.  Rifai personifies multiple personality disorder.  Her face and body transform as she transitions into another character.  The most powerful scene is in the schoolhouse as she is persecutor and martyr.  Despite the intensity of the subject matter, Dickey cleverly creates moments of comic relief.  One character is a brassy Puerto Rican teenager that Rifai embodies with zest.  Rifai displays each role with distinction.  I’m never lost.  I know exactly who is who.  It begs repeating… Sadieh Rifai is phenomenal!           

Sadieh Rifai is unforgettable in American Theater Company's 'The Amish Project,' by Jessica Dickey, directed by PJ Paparelli. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)Paparelli paces the show tight.  He effectively uses Lighting Designer Jesse Klug to illuminate the drama with shadows.  The lighting aids in character transition… often in a disquieting way.  The ambiance of the Pennsylvania Amish is represented on a minimalist set by William Boles.  The main stage is stark except for a few wooden chairs.  Along the outskirts of the stage, flowers, wild grass and a swing bring a natural beauty.  As I’m watching the killer, I can see directly past him at the subtle country landscape in the distance.  WOW!

The Amish Project is my favorite thing about theatre.  It tells a story from multiple creative perspectives.  The American Theatre Company team actually went to Nickel Mines to research the story, and this comprehensive approach to producing the show is apparent.  The Amish Project is authentic and moving.  Fall 2011 is offering a plethora of fantastic theatre options (see our upper left-hand ‘recommended list’).  It would be easy to overlook a little Amish show.  And that would be a huge mistake.  The Amish Project is unique, uplifting, and unforgettable.  YOU should see it!

Rating: ★★★★

Sadieh Rifai - The Amish Project - Jessica Dickey - PJ Paparelli

American Theater Company’s The Amish Project continues through October 23rd 30th at their performance space, 1909 W. Byron (map), with performances Thursdays and Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 3pm and 8pm, and Sundays at 3pm. Tickets are $35-$40, and can be purchased by phone (773-409-4125) or online at (Running time: 70 minutes with no intermission)

All photos by Michael Brosilow 


Sadieh Rifai - The Amish Project - Jessica Dickey - PJ Paparelliartists


Sadieh Rifai

behind the scenes

PJ Paparelli (director), William Boles (scenic), Jesse Klug (lighting), Fabian Obispo (music composition), Katie Klemme (stage manager), Michael Brosilow (photos)
Note: The costumes were designed and built by Amish women in Lancaster, PA.


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Category: 2011 Reviews, American Theatre Company, Katy Walsh

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  1. [...] the rest of my review at Chicago Theater Beat. Tweet var OB_permalink= [...]

  2. [...] Jessica Dickey’s powerful play recounted a true story – the October 2006 massacre of ten Amish girls in their classroom, and the community’s subsequent forgiveness of the assailant – with gravity and wit, brought to light by PJ Paparelli’s respectful direction. But the real star was the show’s single cast member. Portraying everyone from a pregnant teenager to the gunman himself, Sadieh Rifai illuminated each nuance until her one voice conjured a cast of thousands.  read more [...]

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