This show comes from Ensemble of Stitches, a group of students from the School for Creative and Performing Arts led by Mallory Kraus. Kraus serves as the writer and director of this show. She’s a promising young playwright with lots of great ideas.
FringeNext, in its fifth year as a component for the Fringe, invites area high school students to get involved. They develop, produce and perform original works. Students involved in this production do fine work, with each actor having at least one moment to shine. They are talented and ahead of their time — in fact, mature beyond their years on stage. But I couldn’t help but want to give each of them a juice box and a hug at the end of the performance.
Boxed Up is structured with several scenes over the course of its just-over-an-hour running time anchored by the birthday party of Hope, age 6. She encounters an older version of herself, a broken girl covered in graffiti from the crayons she employs to draw pictures of the various characters that appear in the scenes to come.
A young magician learns to fly from his Falcon-father. There’s a vampire love story and a bizarre interaction between a Jewish woman and a German solider who (I think) morphs into God. The show includes allusions to self-mutilation, sexual identify confusion, child abuse and neglect.
And there’s the story of “Jane and the Kid.” Bullying is the play’s central theme — in all its various forms, even towards oneself. It’s never clearer than in this particular scene. As Jane defends her “scrawny friend,” whom she affectionately calls “Kid,” we learn that she has her own set of troubles. This scene broke my heart; it’s one that could be pulled out and developed into its own stand-alone play.
Kraus shows depth as a writer, with an almost concerning understanding of the darkness of humanity. It’s very dark, perhaps too much so. I’m hopeful that as this young playwright grows into her talent, she will find ways to balance angst with more hope.
Ironically, Hope, the 6-year-old, sits in the audience for the bulk of the play, watching these heart-wrenching tragedies unfold. Perhaps we needed more “Hope” onstage to show the hope that might subtly lie beneath each vignette.
Kraus and company should be commended for their work; it’s professional, well done, and interesting.
Kirk Sheppard is a professional counselor and theatre blogger, covering professional theatre in Cincinnati and surrounding areas. Follow his blog, The Sappy Critic.
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