The Amish Project
Now extended thru October 30!
Unforgettably unique and uplifting – don’t miss it!!
|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 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!
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!
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 ATCweb.com. (Running time: 70 minutes with no intermission)
All photos by Michael Brosilow
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.