note: entire contents copyright 2015 by Sheila Barth
There are only a few days left to see Company One’s production of A. Rey Pamatmat’s delightful, poignant, coming-of-age two-act play, “Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them,” and you don’t want to miss it.
Company One’s collaboration with the Huntington Theatre is a celebration of A. Rey Pamatmat’s latest plays. His new drama, “After All the Terrible Things I Do,” also appeared at Boston Center for the Arts Calderwood Pavilion through June 21.
“Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them” is set in the 1990s, pre-cell phone and social media, somewhere in the boondocks, where folks don’t keep careful watch on their neighbors’ kids. They don’t have to -or so they think.
Pamatmat grew up in a remote area of Michigan, where kids were oftentimes left alone during the day or evenings, without the need for adult supervision. Today, here in paranoid, suspicious New England, we consider such behavior as unimaginable, unthinkable, irresponsible.
But us older folks who grew up in safe, city neighborhoods, where everybody knew each other and watched over each other’s kids, relate to Pamatmat’s premise - to a degree.
At the theater’s cozy space, watching “Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them,” we get a bird’s-eye, voyeuristic view of 12-year-old Edith (dynamic adult actress Maria Jan Carreon) and her 16-year-old caretaker brother, Kenny, (talented Gideon Bautista), whose physician dad has basically abandoned them in their home, after their mother “left”.
Cristina Todesco’s clever, unusual large, multi-level, wooden A-frame set, with ladders and platform levels, substitutes as the kids’ barn and home interior.
A faceless, voiceless dad telephones Kenny briefly, to check up on the kids periodically. He sends checks to cover their food and other expenses, such as Edith’s voice lessons; but the two siblings are left to fend for themselves, day after day, night after night.
Although Kenny is only 16, he drives, cooks, goes to school, attending advanced classes, but he oftentimes falls asleep in class from exhaustion. He’s mother,father, and big brother to Edith,but Kenny wistfully wishes somebody would take care of him.
The two youths don’t dare to have friends over, for fear their unsupervised living conditions would be revealed. Kenny wisely knows if the authorities discover their situation, they’ll take the two away, separating them.
While Kenny is pragmatic, Edith is a little girl with a big imagination. With her sole companion, Fergie, (a stuffed frog) and a BB air rifle, Edith sits tottering on the barn roof, keeping a watchful eye for intruders. She can shoot things and hit them, she brags. She practices in the back yard to keep her fine aim.
She has a classroom girlfriend named Dena, but never invites her to the house, for fear Dena’s snoopy mother will discover her situation. One time, Dena’s mother showed up, asking for their father; but Edith was able to circumvent her.
The kids‘ only visitor is Kenny’s nerdy, intelligent classmate, Benji (sensitively portrayed by Eddie Shields). The adolescent boys’ growing relationship, from classmates studying together, to discovering sex and love, is charming.
Also, Kenny’s loving protectiveness and pride in Edith’s feistiness is delightful. He tells her stories about their mother, repeats fables she taught them, keeping her image alive for Edith. Eventually, slowly, though, the truth comes out about their mother’s disappearance and their father’s abandonment, especially towards Edith.
The kids’ world spins out of control at the end of the first act, when Edith is at her lookout perch at night, and spies a large, shadowy figure approaching, nearer and nearer (thanks to Jen Rock’s lighting and Ed Young’s dramatic sound effects). Edith takes aim, shoots, and hits somebody.
I don’t want to spoil the story. There’s so much here to enjoy. Through his youthful characters’ dialogue, Pamatmat poses important questions concerning whether overly-supervised kids are less capable of coping in society than those lacking parental supervision; parents’ lack of understanding; homophobic 1990s and more.
It kinda makes you want to hug your kids long and hard when you get home.
BOX INFO: Company One, in collaboration with Huntington Theatre Company, presents the New England premiere of A. Rey Pamatmat’s “Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them,” through June 27, at the Calderwood Pavilion, Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont St., South End. Boston. Tickets, $25-$38. Visit companyone.org, bostontheatrescene.com or call the Box Office at 617-933-8600.