BWW REVIEW: Company One Hits Bull's-Eye with EDITH CAN SHOOT THINGS

Written by A. Rey Pamatmat; directed by Shawn LaCount; dramaturg, Alexandra Juckno; scenic design, Cristina M. Todesco; lighting design, Jen Rock; costume design, Rafael Jaen; sound design, Ed Young; properties design, Molly FitzMaurice

Cast:

Edith, Maria Jan Carreon; Kenny, Gideon Bautista; Benji, Eddie Shields

Performances and Tickets:

Now through June 27, Company One Theatre, Boston Center for the Arts, Calderwood Pavilion, 539 Tremont Street, Boston; tickets are $25-$38 and are available online at www.companyone.org and www.bostontheatrescene.com or by calling the Box Office at 617-933-8600.

The title may be a bit quizzical, but the message in A. Rey Pamatmat's quirky three-person comedy EDITH CAN SHOOT THINGS AND HIT THEM is right on the mark. When the adult world fails to support and protect its children, the children find ways to protect themselves.

For 12-year-old Edith (a thoroughly engaging Maria Jan Carreon), her way of feeling safe after her mother dies and her father all but abandons her and her 16-year-old brother Kenny (Gideon Bautista) is to tote a realistic-looking BB gun as if it were an army assault rifle. Perched in the window of her barn's hayloft like a sentry protecting the perimeter, Edith imagines herself a super hero from another planet sent to Earth to save those weaker than herself.

Under her watchful eye are the reserved Kenny, a hyper responsible teenager who knows that he must keep Edith in line in order to keep the authorities unaware that they are living home alone, and the timid Benji (Eddie Shields), a gentle and geeky intellectual who, in exploring his homosexuality, helps his best friend Kenny come to terms with his feelings, too. All three vacillate back and forth between childhood and self-reliance, as teenagers are wont to do, but it is Edith who waffles most notably, clinging one minute to a fuzzy green stuffed frog named Fergie and aiming her rifle at imaginary intruders the next.

When Benji's mother throws him out of the house for becoming involved sexually with Kenny, followed by Edith's accidental shooting of a real person who comes knocking at the door in the nighttime, each of the three digs deep inside him or herself to find the courage to stay strong and stay together. Alternately taking comfort in and comforting each other, they manage to survive and even thrive. As a makeshift family of outcasts, they choose goodness over dysfunction, despite the absence of parental love and guidance.

EDITH CAN SHOOT THINGS AND HIT THEM may look at the world through a rather unorthodox teen's eye view, but Pamatmat's play is nonetheless a charmer. EDITH's raison d'étre is clear: its three endearing protagonists use their survival skills not to exact violent retribution against those who have done them wrong but to find their own bumpy paths in the world the very best ways they can. Under the tender guidance of artistic director Shawn LaCount, Company One's young cast stays focused squarely on that intended target.

As the feisty Edith, Carreon, actually a college graduate, balances her pre-teen's brazen self-confidence with an underlying fear and vulnerability that rings completely true for a 12-year-old trying to negotiate the adult world much too soon. Bautista is both brave and anxious as her older, wiser brother Kenny who sacrifices his schoolwork and social life to be the rock his sister can rely on when harsh reality invades her fantasy life. Shields creates a marvelously complex character out of the sensitive Benji, joyfully releasing the butterfly from its chrysalis once he feels safe within Edith and Kenny's acceptance and love.

Set designer Cristina M. Todesco has fashioned a wonderfully imaginative playing space for EDITH that is both spare and highly functional. It's a marvelous melding of both the real and imagined worlds in which Edith and her cohorts reside. A skeletal A-frame structure of angular posts, box beams, ladders and elevated platforms suggests both an expansive Midwestern horse barn and a children's outdoor jungle gym. Jen Rock's focused spot lighting helps define scattered multi-level acting areas such as classrooms, bleachers, bedrooms, an ice cream shop, and even the front seat of an automobile.

The central downstage floor space, with its paisley upholstered sofa and oval braided area rug, fixes the time in the 1990s when notes still had to be passed beneath school desks and parents could ban telephone usage. Ed Young's sound design (George Michael's music makes a particularly antic appearance), Rafael Jaen's character-specific costumes, and prop designer Molly FitzMaurice's period BB gun, notebooks, and bright orange land line complete the retro effect.

EDITH CAN SHOOT THINGS AND HIT THEM is a decidedly different coming of age story about three abandoned but not lost young souls who find strength in coming together. It's a funny, wistful, and yet penetrating contemporary comedy that lets the audience see the world through three pairs of uniquely pained but determined eyes. It's a play of hope and healing - and resilience. Its gentle power pierces the heart.

PHOTOS BY PAUL FOX: Maria Jan Carreon as Edith; Maria Jan Carreon and Gideon Bautista as Kenny; Eddie Shields as Benji and Gideon Bautista; Eddie Shields, Maria Jan Carreon and Gideon Bautista; Eddie Shields and Gideon Bautista



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