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America Is Hard To See - Life Jacket Theatre Co - 4**** - One4Review

America Is Hard To See – Life Jacket Theatre Co – 4****

| On 15, Aug 2019

Travis Russ’ play is not afraid to confront difficult subjects. Based on interviews with residents of Miracle Village, a haven for convicted sex offenders in Florida, we are introduced to 3 residents, Chad, Thomas and Chris. Chad (Harry Waller) is a charming character who goes out of his way to be liked. Thomas (John Carlin) is more irascible, but more open about why he is in Miracle Village. Chris (David Spadora) is a young man whose crimes involved his 14-year-old girlfriend. Pastor Patti (Amy Gaither-Hayes), a new preacher in nearby Pahokee, decides to reach out to the Miracle Village community, believing it her duty as a Christian to try and heal the torment of these lost souls.

The play constantly questions preconceptions. It is easy to assume all sex offenders are monsters, but the 3 characters appear perfectly normal and even likeable. However just as we warm to them, we are reminded why they have been arrested, and the atmosphere suddenly becomes chilling. It is also important to remember that not all crimes are black and white, but sometimes that is hard to see when talking about sex offenders. Through music the two communities find a way of muddling along together, never in perfect harmony but with a sense of hope for the previously irredeemable.

This is not an easy watch, but the acting is superb with Harry Waller and Amy Gaither Hayes giving stand-out performances. The musical interludes are never cloying, and the script has flashes of real humour (often a relief after a traumatic scene). The audience gave the cast a well-deserved standing ovation at the end and there was not a dry eye in the house. Thought provoking and challenging, this is well worth the ticket price.

Reviewed by Rona

Underbelly Cowgate
Until 25th August

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