Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them; Kitchen Theatre through Nov 20 (kitchentheatre.org)
Edith is twelve. She has a BB gun, a bow and arrow, and a Fergie, a giant stuffed frog with one eye. She sees herself as protector of her and Kenny’s home, a remote farm house and barn, a 45 minute drive from town. She also imagines herself the alien offspring of 20 parents and wishes she could fly.
Kenny is sixteen, a high school sophomore, and Edith’s default parent (mom died and dad leaves them on their own most of the time while he stays in town with his girlfriend, dropping money into a bank account whenever he remembers.) Also, while denizens of the heartland, they are Filipino-Americans.
It’s 1993; a landline phone in the living room is both lifeline and nemesis: site of uncomfortable conversations with dad or inquisitive calls by the overly concerned mother of one of Edith’s friends. They leave it unplugged most of the time. (Implicit throughout is the threat that authorities might break up this family of two.)
Into this mix falls Benji, the only other sophomore in Kenny’s pre-calc class. Bright and nerdy, he has flung himself into a romantic and sexual relationship with Kenny, which he hides from his fundamentalist mother.
Edith Can Shoot Things… is a joyful, heart-stopping, achingly bittersweet exploration of the resilience and hope of youth, and the many ways a family can be formed. Playwright A. Rey Pamatmat shapes his world in short, rhythmic scenes, delicate yet sturdy, with great dashes of humor. His adolescents are refreshingly direct, flawed, smart, needy, real.
The Kitchen Theatre’s breath-taking production is simply gorgeous, with spot-on acting, design and direction.
Rodrigo Hernandez Martinez’s ramshackle two-level wood plank set hovers between the mundane and the romantic, and under the inventive direction of Tyler Struble as well as the evocative lighting of Paul Vaillancourt, serves as a number of locales, including Kenny’s car. Iris Estelle’s costumes quietly establish period and character, while Jonathan Taylor’s sound design neatly delineates rural, school while suppling the show a swoony early 90s soundtrack (George Michael’s “Faith” supplies a pivotal plot moment as well as a delicious set of dance moves.)
Struble directs with a light, fleet touch, lifting the text, yet allowing the silences to breathe; scene transitions are like watercolor brushstrokes. He has encouraged his cast to commit full-throttle, while keeping the comedy emotionally rooted.
Marielle Young’s Edith is a holy terror in all the best ways: adamant, loud, demanding, yet fiercely loving, frighteningly perceptive, wildly imaginative. Tough yet tender (especially as she encourages Kenny and Benji’s relationship.) A wise old soul twined with a softly yearning kid. Young hits all those marks with remarkable buoyancy and vulnerability.
As Kenny, Glenn Obrero captures the enormous love and weight of alternating between big brother, father and even mother (who Kenny keeps alive through “her” stories.) He is a conciliator, somewhat defensive, pushing through difficulties on automatic (“a robot”) burying his own fury and loneliness deep within. Obrero captures all these shades, as well as blossoming with a giddy headlong bliss with Benji.
At the core of Declan Thomas Desmond’s Benji is sweetness, shy yet inextinguishable, with a puckish edge. He treats his attraction to Kenny as both natural and a delightful mathematical puzzle to unravel.
The actors’ physicality is quite captivating: how Young plants herself with her air rifle, yet flops backwards like a rag doll on the sofa, how Obrero takes a tiny little hop when getting ready to see Benji, how Desmond curls protectively around his backpack, or bounces to his Walkman. They are kids. And these kids are gonna be alright.
Don’t miss it. Performances continue through Sunday November 20; a streaming alternative is also available.