nytheatre.com review by Leslie Bramm
April 22, 2011
Paper Cranes by Kari Bentley-Quinn is about the extremes taken to express our grief and what we put others through in the process. Produced by Packawallop Productions, who pride themselves on making theatre that celebrates diversity and telling stories about those outside of the “norm,” this well-crafted piece holds its own nicely.
Part of Japanese mythology is the art of folding paper cranes. It is believed that if you fold a thousand cranes, then you will be granted a wish. In Bentley-Quinn’s play, the folding and unfolding of these paper birds is a powerful symbol of how we fold and unfold our emotional realities. We fix timelines to our grief, and adorn the walls of our psyches with souvenirs of these journeys. The folds may be simple, but the edges are exact, and the outcomes predictable.
David and Mona have both lost someone they love. One suddenly, brutally; and one protracted, eating away at everyone involved. They meet in a grief counseling group and begin to connect. In the meantime, David is also hooking up with Amy, where they enact their own game of brutality and pain.
Mona’s daughter Maddie is a young lesbian in the process of coming out. She has a strong sexual appetite, but shies away from taking that next step of self-acceptance. She connects with Julie, a woman 15 years her senior, and both begin to fall in love.
Amy is Julie’s best friend and confidante, and from there the stories are smartly woven together. Bentley-Quinn uses the characters' sense of humor to add an edge to the ensuing drama. For as these lives begin to cross, each character begins to see more of themselves, and it’s not necessarily a pretty thing.
Scott Ebersold directs the play with compassion and a sense of urgency in the pacing. The transitions from location to location are all smooth and I lost track of the time. Always a good sign.
The cast is solid. As Mona, Cynthia Silver, conveys a palpable sense of despair. As David, Eric T. Miller finds the beauty in his brutality. Melissa Hammans’s Julie is wise and tender and Sarah Lord is effective as Maddie. My favorite character, and a standout performance, is Susan Louise O’Connor’s Amy. Amy seems above the fray of grief and willingly gives of her body and spirit to provide solace for the others. Amy lets herself get used, but manages to get exactly what she needs. O’Connor is hard- edged and funny. She creates Amy’s sexiness and sadness and nails the reality of both. Bentley-Quinn has to be pleased with this fine ensemble.
Kudos to Packawallop Productions for developing this play and giving it a top-notch production as support. The team of designers have all done excellent work, creating a world where grief can be expressed and resolved.