By Matt D’Silva
Walking into a theater that is bursting with an audience eagerly awaiting the performance to start is a very good sign. Overhearing one person say “Ohhhh, I really love her other work” and another say “This performance is so good, I’ve seen it before,” you can’t help but get excited for what is about to be presented to you.
“Almost 13” is a characterization of life in South Brooklyn set in the 1960s. Written and performed by Joan Kane, this production is gritty and real. Although it starts out quite innocently, it explores the harsh realities of living in a tough suburb before it was gentrified into the area we know today.
We are introduced to Sis and Chrissie, a brother and sister who live with their single mom. She works two menial jobs to keep Sis and Chrissie clothed and fed. She works in an office building downtown during the day, and cleans toilets at Macy’s in the evenings. Sis and Chrissie spend their summer fishing for coins in fountains, dreaming of buying ice cream on Neptune Avenue, and watching the fireworks over the rooftops of the neighboring brownstones.
The Biddies are a group of homemakers who keep an eye on the neighborhood, gossiping and passing judgement on the goings‑on of everyone on their street. Tony is the thuggish leader of the South Brooklyn gang. He watches his street like a hawk, patrolling up and down, menacing the local kids with his baseball bat, and tracking everyone’s movements. He does not like it when people don’t respect his authority, and resents the Latino immigrants in the neighborhood.
The world is a relatively easygoing place for Sis and Chrissie, as long as they behave themselves, get good grades and pray to God. One hot summer evening, while sitting on her stoop, waiting for the fireworks, Sis eats candy straight from the box, and dreams of the Van Gogh painting she saw at the museum. She sees a local boy named Juan walking up the street, and calls him over to her. She shares her candy with him, and invites him to stay and watch the fireworks. All very innocent. All the while, Tony watches ominously from a distance. Sis’s life changes that evening. She begins to question everything, and we bear witness to her journey.
“Almost 13” is directed by Bruce A! Kraemer, and is presented on a bare stage. As Joan Kane dramatizes her childhood and loss of innocence, she creates a sense of a lost soul and burning anger that slowly escalates into a gripping emotional journey that leaves you questioning how much has really changed. Hers is a raw and realistic story‑tender and naïve, but also confrontational and emotionally charged‑about a young girl suddenly ripped from childhood and thrown, stamped and pummeled into young adulthood. This story is chilling and genuine, layered with a plethora of emotions.
Joan Kane is a powerhouse. Having lived the experience, she now relives it on stage. Her portrayal of each character is so real that you forget she is only one person; as the grotesque Tony, she is menacing and brutish, reminiscent of any childhood bully. Her transitions between the characters are mesmerizing.
“Almost 13” is a story of a child’s innocence brutally torn away when the world in which she grew up changes. It isn’t your happy‑go‑lucky play. Instead, it slaps you in the face with the realities of life.
Written and Performed by Joan Kane
Directed by Bruce A Kraemer
September 24 at 7 PM, and October 4 at 7:30 PM
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Production
2019 United Solo Theater Festival
410 West 42nd Street
New York City
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MATT D’SILVA recently moved to New York from Sydney to pursue his dreams. He has been working in the performing arts industry for longer than he likes to admit, but still loves and enjoys the work. Matt is finalizing his first book and hopes to get it published on day soon.