The Amish Project (Review)

Queen City Theater portrays seven people affected by tragedy

If you’re a fan of the Cincinnati Fringe, you might want to check out Jessica Dickey’s The Amish Project, the first work presented by Queen City Theater (which has operated for several years as Queen City Off-Broadway) in the black-box theater at the new School for Creative and Performing Arts. Dickey’s script, first presented at the New York International Fringe in 2008, portrays people she has imagined as affected by the 2006 Nickel Mines murders of several Amish girls in a one-room schoolhouse.

The one-woman production features Leah Strasser, a 2010 intern at Ensemble Theatre, as seven characters. Although dressed in traditional Amish garb — bonnet, long dress, black stockings — to convey two of the young victims, she also portrays non-Amish people, including the troubled gunman and his beleaguered wife, a sassy Puerto Rican teenager, an outspoken woman outraged by the shootings and a college professor who provides background about the Amish.

The script quick-cuts from one character to another in a manner that’s sometimes confusing; Strasser gives each portrait a recognizable identity from the hollow-eyed gunman to the smart-mouthed Puerto Rican girl. The only stumble is the young Amish girl whom she portrays with a babyish voice and demeanor, despite a vocabulary that doesn’t match.

Dickey’s script hurtles through the psyche of each character, delving into the inquisitive children, the reclusive Amish and the guilt-ridden wife who meditates on the nature of promises, from advertising and packaging to wedding vows and scripture, and how they are seldom fulfilled.

The program states the show’s running time as 105 minutes without intermission; it was finished in 65 minutes that felt hurried. Director Lyle Benjamin might have imposed a slightly more measured pace to give the narrative more impact. As it is, the stories of these characters fly by a tad too quickly.

THE AMISH PROJECT, presented by Queen City Theater, continues through Saturday, July 30. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.

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