nytheatre.com review by Alec G. Miller
August 21, 2007
Steffi Kammer has been through more during her young life than many people have been through in a lifetime. Her uncompromising and effective tale of growing up in Brooklyn's notorious Farragut Housing Project is the basis for her autobiographical one-woman show entitled The Box, presented by Dime-Store Alchemy. Kammer co-wrote this piece with author Bob Sloan, who also directs.
The story revolves around Kammer as an adolescent and her experiences in the two very different worlds of New York. She went to school on scholarship at the ultra-competitive Upper East Side private school Dalton, while her mother barely made ends meet trying to provide for Kammer and her brother on a $9,000-a-year salary. It is a heartfelt story that epitomizes the struggle that many families must to go through in order to survive in this big city. Doing whatever is necessary to make sure that you and your family don't go to bed starving lead to the tough choices that are posed and discussed throughout this tender play.
A major role in The Box belongs to the artist Joseph Cornell. He never personally shows up, but his works and diary are a great source of inspiration and comfort to the young Kammer. Her affinity for Cornell is clear; the experiences she has gone through have made her mind like one of Cornell's boxes. The stories Kammer tells and the people she encounters are the memories that will stay safe in her mind forever, in much the same way that Cornell collected curious and obscure objects thrown aside onto the streets of New York for his artistic boxes.
Sloan's direction is simple, understated, and efficient as Kammer is able to move between characters, playing more than a dozen roles seamlessly. She presents her unfortunate and traumatic upbringing in a placid and sometimes comical manner. This demeanor helps alleviate the obvious hardship she's been through, although the emotional disconnect is, at times, too prevalent. Nevertheless, The Box is able to successfully showcase the harrowing stories of Kammer's young adulthood in a thought-provoking and intelligent way.