Joan Kane’s “Almost 13” is an affecting vignette of her true experiences which shaped (but did not define) her woman’s future. The play, a solo performance, brings the audience to a time “where women stayed at home, and men worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.” It is an era and a time in New York City that has been glorified, from Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation” to Neil Simon’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs” and so much in between, yet this collection of true stories is not a love story to Brooklyn.
…an affecting vignette…The writing makes you want to be there, too, to help guide her through the challenges of young adolescence.
It is set in Kane’s old neighborhood of Park Slope, long before its present time of craft butcheries and upscale French restaurants, and when it was a more ethnically diverse enclave known as “southern Brooklyn.” She plays “Sis”, who is almost 13, and dreams of jumping in waves and fireworks over Coney Island. While this period piece brings us to a more wistful time in America, the story told is anything but. It depicts racism, sexual assault, and witnessing a murder. Kane, who narrates this show and pivots into (at least) 12 different characters with just a few items on stage, movingly recalls her childhood trauma. You can tell, through her delivery—of sadness, innocence, Italians, old-school Catholic mothers, and bullies—that she was on the stoop in Brooklyn decades ago, seeing it all, and it has impacted her. The writing makes you want to be there, too, to help guide her through the challenges of young adolescence.
“Almost 13” comes from Kane, along with her partner Bruce A! Kraemer, who formed “Ego Actus” production company to create art for art’s sake. Their mantra fits well here.This show’s simplicity is well suited for a Fringe Festival stage, and it will in fact travel north in August to the Edmonton Fringe. If there are any qualms with this production, it is that its more the technical aspects could be more fully developed. The lighting, including a blast of redness during one particular scene, needs nuance and to be more effectively utilized during the entire performance. For a time when so many classic songs were created, the show is unfortunately devoid of music.
What shines most in “Almost 13” is the writing and the story itself. Childhood trauma will always exist but does not always control who we are. The kid who grows from a latchkey kid—hooking on to whatever she can—to a katsuki kid, is someone so strong that when she is broken from trauma, she can put herself back together.
Running time: 50 minutes with no intermission.
Advisory: Recommended for ages 13+ and up.
“Almost 13” runs through July 23, 2023 at Squirt Theatre Space, 1050 Thomas Jefferson Street, NW Washington DC 20007. For tickets and information, click here. For more information and tickets for the festival which runs through July 23, 2023, go to the Capital Fringe website.