Lights fade to black and we are left with deep shades of red dissipating into the blackboard displayed in a classroom setting. At the top of the show, a man is described as entering a school building, firing gunshots and shooting 10 girls before pulling the trigger on himself. The Amish Project, now playing at Factory 449, is a one-woman show by Jessica Dickey starring Nanna Ingvarsson. As one of the characters she plays among a variety of townspeople in Lancaster County, Ingvarsson raises a burning question, “what happens to a person when you live in a world where you can’t believe anything and the things you don’t wanna believe are actually true?” How can society so easily at times gloss over the harsh realities of today’s brutalities amidst a complicated world in which we live?
Ingvarsson delivers focused, impeccable transitions…
Throughout the course of the play, we travel on a journey through a complex community dealing with the socio-cultural and psychological post-traumatic stresses in the aftermath of a tragedy. One actor portrays seven characters with seven diverse points of view. Ingvarsson delivers focused, impeccable transitions from character to character – an endearing presentation of an innocent child drawing her friends on the chalkboard and playground asphalt; a charming 16-year-old Hispanic American fantasizing by aligning her lifestyle with her passions for Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream; and a heart-wrenching portrayal of the gunman’s fragile wife, post-shooting, making daily light-heartedness out of a merciless situation as she deals with public encounters shopping at the local grocery store. Her obsessive thoughts of how to morally cope with the struggles as the gunman’s former wife are carefully transitioned between split-second moment-to-moment stages with the gunman.
Ingvarsson’s ability to display a more multi-dimensional, realistic side to the gunman’s interpretation of the shootings is breathtaking. This is her first, one-woman show directed by veteran Washington actress, Holly Twyford. In 2011, Twyford made her directorial debut with Diana Son’s Stop Kiss at No Rules Theatre Company. She has won four Helen Hayes Awards and an Emery Battis Award from The Shakespeare Theatre Company. Twyford’s direction allows Ingvarsson’s versatility to take us through an emotional smorgasbord of a roller-costar ride. Ingvarsson’s dynamic physical movements, vocal intonation patterns, and dialects made me almost forget that I was watching a one-woman show. Her skill is no surprise – Ingvarsson is a Helen Hayes Award winner for her portrayal of Janet inThe Rocky Horror Picture Show at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in 1991.
Playwright Jessica Dickey intended for the play to be “a study in beauty-beauty of the soul, beauty of the heart, and the beauty of simplicity.” Within the context of The Amish Project, we are given the opportunity to view this society in many different lights and to appreciate the complexities of a variety of human perspectives coming from a place of understanding, compassion, and empathy.
Running Time: 90 minutes with no intermission.
The Amish Project runs through May 11, 2014 with Factory 449 at the Anacostia Arts Center. 1231 Good Hope Road, SE Washington, DC 20020. Thursday-Saturday at 8 pm, Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets can be purchased online.