Nickel Mines Strong: THE AMISH PROJECT

With Emma Johnson, Mackenzie Dreese, Karin Nilo and Becky Bass at Cambridge YMCA Theater. Photo Credit: Circuit Theatre Co

Presented by Circuit Theatre Company
The Amish Project by Jessica Dickey
Directed by Alexandra Keegan

June 21-27
Cambridge YMCA Theater
Cambridge, MA
Circuit Theatre Co Facebook Page

Review by Noelani Kamelamela

(Cambridge) In its third year, the Circuit Theatre Company has already established itself as a small theatre company willing to take risks.  Their recent IRNE nominations and current production attest to their boldness and artistic integrity.  Circuit Theatre’s The Amish Project is the kind of show which can be interpreted in multiple ways.

Like The Laramie Project, The Amish Project explores the after effects of a terrible crime, the shooting of ten Amish girls in a school, on a community.  Unlike The Laramie Project, it did not have the benefit of a large information gathering effort. Ordinary people complete extraordinary actions under the kind of control and editing which pushed a non-linear narrative towards an open-ended conclusion while still neatly ending all of the plotlines.

The work employed nearly all of the visible space of the theatre.  The set evoked the simplicity of a schoolhouse or community space while all of the female performers wore what an audience member could only assume is Amish garb. A play that debuted as a female solo effort was undertaken by a female-only ensemble.  In many ways, this felt like an enhanced experience while also presenting a mono-gendered wall at times.  The transgendered performances appeared more authentic due to the lack of visible indicators such as costume, props or makeup.  Emma Johnson’s passionate portrayal of a woman caught in between the compassion of the Amish and her own negativity highlighted a journey which is one of the miracles within the show.

Coming from a culture other than the mainstream means that I view any art portraying a community other than the mainstream warily.  One could minimize the revolutionary compassion an Amish community exhibited in Nickel Mines, PA in 2006 by insisting that “they” are superhuman or that they are simply “raised that way.”  Surely, “we,” the mainstream culturally relevant majority (everyone likes to think of themselves as relevant and part of a majority, whether they are or not), cannot be like them?   This production insists that human forgiveness of the unforgivable is possible, no matter how you were raised.

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