The Amish Project is a tour de force for Iliana Carter, who plays multiple roles in Jessica Dickey’s one-woman play at Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company’s 10th Avenue Theatre. Clad in traditional Amish woman’s dress, apron and bonnet, Carter re-enacts the tragedy (and aftermath) of a 2006 shooting at a Pennsylvania schoolhouse that left five girls dead. With props as sparse as a schoolhouse blackboard and a hunk of chalk, Carter assumes practically from moment to moment the personas of the innocent schoolchildren, the gunman (who took his own life in the spree), the killer’s tormented widow and others in the village of Nickel Mines.
The constant shift in character is a testament to Carter’s commitment and versatility, though the impact of some of the portrayals is sacrificed in the process: the breakdown of the widow, for one. That pain says so much about the other victims of massacres like this one – the guilt-ridden survivors – and you want to absorb it and let it get inside you, over time. By play’s end, all of the Nickel Mines men, women and children may be a troubled jumble in your mind. Yet even if they are, you won’t forget them, and that’s what matters most.
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.