Review: Crowded Fire’s ‘Edith’ a warm and gentle story of family and love

Kenny (Wes Gabrillo) and Benji (Maro Guevara) find love in the shadows in "Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them" at Crowded Fire Theater through March 21st. (Photo by Pak Han)
Kenny (Wes Gabrillo) and Benji (Maro Guevara) find love in the shadows in “Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them” at Crowded Fire Theater through March 21st. (Photo by Pak Han)

There are many moments in the Crowded Fire Theater production of “Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them” that are significant, but one stands out for me. It is a moment of discovery for both Kenny and Benji. They are discovering their love, which is of the forbidden variety – Kenny lives with an absent father, while Benji’s parents are much more enamored with their other son who plays sports and likes to get it on with the babes.

The moment of which I speak is a simple stare, where both look longingly into each other’s eyes. It is beautiful foreshadowing, because both of these boys will have many challenges that will test their will, their patience and their love. A stare like that builds a bond, and creates an aura of protection that both of these boys will need as the story unfolds.

Crowded Fire’s production features a plethora of moments like this, with director Desdemona Chiang’s many fingerprints finding balance and nuance throughout A. Rey Pamatmat’s coming of age script. The acting is mostly solid, and does a fine job of telling a very well layered story.

Edith (Nicole Javier) and her brother Kenny (Wes Gabrillo) are without a father. Well, kind of. He apparently is around somewhere, along with his girlfriend (mom passed away), yet Kenny does everything. He plans meals on a limited budget, stays on top of Edith’s music lessons and all her whims, which includes shooting things as a pellet gun home protector in her own mind. It is remarkable how much he deals with, all the while falling in love with the nerdy and adorable Benji (Maro Guevara).

Kenny (Gabrillo) chats with dad while Edith (Nicole Javier) listens in. (Photo by Pak Han)
Kenny (Gabrillo) chats with dad while Edith (Nicole Javier) listens in. (Photo by Pak Han)

Kenny’s and Benji’s explorations are innocent enough, grasping their budding sexuality while looking at lesbian porn. They get out a dictionary and find some terms adults take for granted. The results of their findings are terribly funny and a great touch by Pamatmat, capturing gently the uncertainty that exists in those who are ready to explore further what love means. Moments like these find such wonderful humor.

It is essential humor. Humor that comes from pain and struggle is real, it is visceral, it is complex. The strength of the story are the struggles that both boys go through.

Take for instance the moment where Benji’s family realizes he is gay. In the ways of coming out, this was an unmitigated disaster. It led to his being thrown out of the house, and he has the grass stains to prove it. But the soft grass he landed on was nothing compared to the softer arms he landed in.

What is extremely interesting in Pamatmat’s coming of age story is the growth each character faces, growth that is born through struggle. That growth is beautiful in many moments, but a moment that rings beautifully true is when Edith asks Kenny to invite Benji to her recital. Why would she want him there, Kenny asks.

Yet there is no need for Edith to answer this question. She knows. And she has known for a while now. It is not a discovery that Kenny makes right away. Does he not want to accept Edith’s budding maturity? Will he know how to function when his love is out of the shadows?

The actors create these moments throughout, with much of that effective work taking place between Gabrillo and Guevara. It is their story that compelled me mostly. The Thick House, with its 80 seats and sharp rake makes a perfect venue for this delicate piece.

“Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them” finds wonderful nuance and expresses it through the love of its subjects. They may not always have a father. They may not have a brother. But they have something no one can take away – each other.

WHAT TO KNOW IF YOU GO

Crowded Fire Theater presents “Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them”
Written by A. Rey Pamatmat
Directed by Desdemona Chiang
The Word: A gentle, warm story of love and family is effective in the intimate Thick House.
Stars: 4 out of 5
The Thick House
1695 18th Street, San Francisco, CA
For tickets, visit www.crowdedfire.org

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