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A Balm in Gilead: The Amish Project proves magnificent and astonishing, a blessing on us

“The Amish Project”
“The Amish Project”

by Patrick B. McGuigan

Katherine Michelle Tanner delivers a magnificent and astonishing performance in the one-woman show, “The Amish Project”  continuing Saturday night (April 11) and Sunday afternoon (April 12) at the Civic Center.

It seems difficult to put into a couple of hundred words the moral power and authority of this unusual play, written by Jessica Dickey. Drawn from the horrid events leading to the murder of 10 little girls at Nickle Mines, Pennsylvania in 2006, the story focuses on compassion, faith and forgiveness.

As the tale begins, it covers all three themes as brilliantly as could be imagined in a 75-minute telling. Near the end, one unspoken word is the center of the play, and in the imagination it seems that one word must be “forgiveness.”

Yet, pondering matters after this haunting story ended at Friday’s performance, it seemed none of the three words were adequate to capture the theme of the tale.

The only that might suffice is love, for it incorporates all three: Compassion toward those who suffer, faith in an unseen God whose presence is manifested in the best of His creation, and forgiveness for even the most awful among us.

In the end, however, the only word that envelops all the amazing narrative from Dickey is love.

As for Tanner’s performance, a thousand words could not do it justice.

Suffice to say she is alternately at least two little girls, a teen-aged girl of fatalistic bent, an embittered widow of a mass murderer, the killer himself, and a mature man reflecting on both the inherently forgiving nature of the Amish people and his own need to receive that balm from Gilead.

If you can stomach a love story about the seemingly impossible – forgiveness for the worst of crimes – then this is the place to be this weekend.

Coming soon before observance of the twenty years that have passed with the bombing of the A.P. Murray Federal Building in Oklahoma City, “The Amish Project” is a stroke of genius, and a calming influence as memories is renewed.

The Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre continues to lead the way with innovative and steller professional performances. We are blessed to have these people working among us.

“The Amish Project” concludes Saturday evening in the Freede Little Theatre at 7:30 p.m., with a matinee finale Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

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