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Review: AtticRep’s ‘The Amish Project’ is a Must-see Conversation Starter

by: Deborah Martin – February 11, 2016
Originally Published by My San Antonio

Playwright Jessica Dickey’s “The Amish Project” demands a lot of any actor who takes it on.

Sarah Gise stars in AtticRep’s staging of “The Amish Project.” Express news photo by Billy Calzada.

In the version of the play that AtticRep is employing, an actress portrays seven characters, sometimes shifting between them from one word to the next. The weight of the piece — a drama inspired by the 2006 shooting at an Amish schoolhouse — rests entirely on her shoulders.

Sarah Gise, who stars in the AtticRep staging masterfully directed by David Connelly, has some pretty darn sturdy shoulders.

Gise, who studied with Connelly at the North East School of the Arts and who now works in Chicago, delivers a spellbinding performance, moving with grace and authority from one character to the next.

In just over an hour, she plays two of the murder victims; the shooter and the wife he left behind; a religious studies professor attempting to explain the Amish community to the press; a non-Amish woman who lives in the area and has a run-in with the wife; and a pregnant teen who moves into the wife’s orbit.

The play isn’t so much about the shooting as it is about the Amish families’ response. They not only forgave the gunman, they reached out to his family, making sure that they, too, were viewed as victims deserving of compassion.

Dressed in the signature attire of Amish women throughout, Gise uses body language and vocal shifts to differentiate between the characters. Velda is a a 6-year-old firecracker who moves randomly through a range of topics as she bounces about the set; her 14-year-old sister Anna embodies serenity; Carol, the gunman’s widow, curves into herself as if she’s trying to keep from flying apart; and the gunman, who stands in the shadows, has a disturbing stillness.

The design team — including lighting designer Tim Francis, set designer Jeremiah Teutsch, costumer Martha Penaranda and sound designer Cole Wilson (another NESA alum and former student of Connelly’s) created an elegant, spare look for the show that serves the material well.

As is typical of AtticRep’s offerings, it’s a meaty, challenging must-see that’s guaranteed to spark discussion.

“The Amish Project” can be seen at 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays through Feb. 21 at the Carlos Alvarez Studio Theater of the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, 100 Auditorium Circle. Tickets range from $18-$28 at box office, by calling 210-223-8624 or online at tobi.tobincenter.org.


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