The Amish Project, written by Jessica Dickey, is a beautiful, compassionate, thoroughly intelligent and heartfelt ode to the people involved in the October 2nd, 2006 massacre of ten young girls in a one room schoolhouse located in the Lancaster County Pennsylvania farmland that is known as Nickel Mines – home to the Amish.
It is an amazing accomplishment. It is a totally fictitious take on the events. It is a reflection of the events filtered through the extraordinary imagination of Jessica Dickey. No interviews. No real names. Just the horrific event that sparked the intense emotions to flow from Ms. Dickey’s mind to the stage of the Rattlestick Theater where you can and should witness for yourself how the Amish could have forgiven the murderer and reached out to his family despite the horror that it caused them.
Not only has Ms. Dickey written a most memorable play but she is the sole actor performing all the parts. But this is not your usual change hats, change props, change character sort of one person show. Jessica physically becomes each distinct character – her voice and body merging with each new personality. The young girl who explains her family and friends by “sign drawing” stick figures in the air. Her older sister. The murderer – a male. His wife. A Latino pregnant teen. A neighbor who gives another side of the story. Sometimes in a profane manner which juxtaposes the peacefulness of the Amish mentality. Another male who tries to explain just what makes the Amish tick while rubbing his chin. Details. Wonderful small details define each character. Jessica Dickey gives a truthful and honest portrayal of every one of them all the while wearing her simple Amish dress, apron and cap.
The Amish Project is finely directed by Sarah Cameron Sunde. They are so in tune with each other, she and Jessica. And the result is a well paced, sometimes eerie (as when the murderer peers inside the schoolhouse windows) sometimes heartbreaking and many times amusing and in the end a questioning about faith and belief and forgiveness.
There are no video projections. No props. No theatrical tricks. Only good writing. Good acting. Only the most simple of sets – a beautiful design by Lauren Helpern and terrific lighting by Nicole Pearce. And the haunting music and sound design by Jill bc Duboff. All lending unobtrusive support to the story.
We never find out why he killed these young girls. It is not a reliving of the event. The media instilled in us all, all that was horrible and Ms. Dickey has no intention of showing the gore, only showing us that forgiveness may be the answer to healing.
Performed without an intermission and with great expertise.