New Theatre is On Target With ‘Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them’

pbfwchefs.jpg

“Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them,” a world-premiere comedy-drama atNew Theatre in Coral Gables through Sunday, is many things, not the least of which a socially conscious snapshot of a broken home. High schooler Kenny (Juan Gonzalez Machain) and his 12-year-old sister Edith (Natasha

Waisfeld) live in a remote farming town in Middle America, supported only by the meager weekly budget of their absent, workaholic father (mom abandoned the family years earlier). Kenny is forced to become wise beyond his years, doing double duty as student and makeshift parent to Edith while discovering his own sexuality: He’s beginning to develop a relationship with Benji (John Robert Warren), a nerdy boy from his calculus class.

This is a work told entirely from high- and middle-school students’ perspectives, and the parents, who are discussed but never seen, come off as shameful, neglectful and intolerant. Benji’s mother rules over her son with an iron fist, policing his sexuality and threatening his banishment if he continues to see Kenny.

“Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them” is set in the early ‘90s – hence the repeated, nostalgic references to Rubik’s Cubes, beanbag chairs and Walkmen – and watching the boys’ clandestine love affair struggle to blossom in painful confinement is a reminder how far our society has advanced in its acceptance of gays. The actors’ intimacy with one another is bracing and heartfelt, offering one of the most tender love stories I’ve seen onstage all year.

As Edith, meanwhile, Waisfeld may be the cast’s brightest light. Clutching her favorite stuffed frog like a birthright and wielding a BB gun around the house to ward off potential intruders, you’d never believe this recent college graduate was in her ‘20s. She clearly did her research on the mannerisms and elocution of young teenage girls; she plays Edith as a spunky little sparkplug whose great-protector façade hides years of pent-up vulnerability.

By the end, we’ve watched all three characters confront their fears, stand up for themselves and transition from adolescence to adulthood. To playwright A. Rey Pamatmat’s credit, this evolution never feels telegraphed, moralized or garnished with an “I’ve learned something today” summation. New Theatre’s impressive set is cleanly, pleasantly divided between a hayloft, a living room and the wheat fields outside, and the lighting design is stunning beyond this theater’s usual output.

“Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them” runs through Sunday at New Theatre, 4120 Laguna St., Coral Gables. Tickets are $35 to $40. Call 305/443-5909 or visit new-theatre.com.