The Amish Project—without the Amish

Dark Glass Theatre is presenting Jessica Dickey's The Amish Project at The Nest.

Kelsey Krogman plays Carol in The Amish Project.

The Amish Project is a sentimental fictionalization of a tragedy.

In 2006, a shooter entered a school in the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. He held ten girls hostage and shot eight of them, killing five. The Amish responded with forgiveness, reaching out to the shooter’s wife and three children and establishing a charitable fund for the family.

That’s powerful source material, but playwright Jessica Dickey fails to do it justice.

According to director Angela Konrad’s program notes, Dickey didn’t interview any of the people directly affected by the Nickel Mines shooting. That’s too bad because, if she had, she might have created a more resonant script.

Instead, Dickey contents herself with superficial poetics. The play’s actors repeat the headline “Man enters Amish schoolhouse and opens fire” so often that it quickly moves from being heavy-handed to being tedious. In an effort to present innocence, Dickey has a young character named Velda mime drawing endless stick figures. And Velda’s older sister Anna floats about as a ghost—like a refugee from Our Town— tenderly observing her parents and community.

None of this lands. None of it has the ring of harsh truth or genuine beauty. It’s just made up. [Read more…]

Ruined: Don’t look away

Dark Glass Theatre is producing Lynn Nottage's Ruined.

Makambe K. Simamba and Shayna Jones take you all the way there in Ruined. (Photo by Jalen Saip)

War is fought on women’s bodies. That truth is at the heart of Lynn Nottage’s Ruined.

Nottage sets Ruined during the war in Congo, which was officially over in 2002 but continues to rage. The action unfolds in Mama Nadi’s roadside canteen and brothel. Government and rebel armies are fighting for control of the country’s natural resources, which include coltan, a mineral essential to the production of cellphones.

Eighteen-year-old Sophie is expected to entertain fighters from both sides as well as miners. But Sophie isn’t a sex worker, she sings. She has been “ruined”, so brutalized by rape that she lives with chronic pain and infection.

For five months, Sophie’s friend Salima was a sex slave to rebel forces. Now she must work as a prostitute.

Watching Ruined, the first frightening realization is that Mama Nadi’s is the safest place for these women to be. Because they have been dishonoured, their families and villages want nothing to do with them.

Throughout the play, everybody tries to figure out how to survive—as the fighting gets closer. [Read more…]

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