Edith Can Shoot Things And Hit Them (Mu Performing Arts, performing at Mixed Blood Theatre, through April 1) wants to be a movie. Much of what we hear about in A. Rey Pamatmat‘s play – Edith’s armed “securing the perimeter” of the house, the shooting of Dad’s girlfriend Chloe, Benji’s fraught confrontation with his homophobic mother, Dad waiting in his car, unwilling/unable to enter the house – would be, in a film, seen, and to excellent effect.
Moreover, the play has an imagistic and highly cinematic structure, with many short scenes, musical transitions, lots of cut-tos and dissolve-tos. Director Randy Reyes does what he can, but too often the play has a choppy and often uncomfortable rhythm. Just as a scene develops power, it ends, and then we wait, with growing dissatisfaction, for the next one.
Pamatmat’s basic story material is terrific. Dad has deserted his family after the tragic death (via a brain tumor) of his wife. He’s a doctor and thus has (presumably) significant financial resources. Still, he often neglects his regular and for his two kids life-sustaining bank deposits. Young (he’s only 16) Kenny must often choose between gas and food. His even younger sister (she’s 12) Edith is descending into paranoia and Kenny can do little to help her. Edith depends for sanity on her toy bow-and-arrow and her BB gun: “You’re safe here. I can shoot things.”
Kenny falls into a sudden and passionate sexual relationship with a chum (also 16) from school, Benji. This liaison is developed with admirable candor. Kenny and Benji kiss, caress, frankly discuss sexual techniques. When his Mom discovers a love note, Benji is forced to live with Kenny and Edith. The homosexuality forms the center of the play. But it also gave me pause: is Pamatmat, I wondered (both during and after the play), connecting homosexuality with the lack of parental supervision? I finally decided that he is not. Still, the question niggles.
Performances in Edith Can Shoot Things And Hit Them are uneven. Isabella Dawis is wonderful as the quiet, older-than-her-years Edith. This Edith is genuinely scary, eyes flashing with a combination of insanity and instinctive knowledge. Edith knows, for example, that it’s vitally important that Benji read out loud his love-note to Kenny. But, all too often, the play requires Edith to fall back on generic and uninteresting little-girl tantrums.
Alex Galick excels as Kenny, trying so desperately to keep things on an even keel. Handsome and passionate, his sexual connection to Benji is vivid and heartfelt. As Benji, Matthew Cerar provides play-driving energy, but too often I found his Benji calculated and cloyingly sweet.
Mu is presenting Edith Can Shoot Things And Hit Them as part of a “rolling world premiere.” This is very good. Edith may be imperfect, but A. Rey Pamatmat is a writer of power and originality, and these productions will allow him to hone his expansive talents.
And I hope he is working on a film script.
For more info about John Olive, please visit his website.