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The Jedi Handbook, Images Meet Adolescence

Josh Carroll, James; Anna Doyle, Kerry; Lucy Farmer, Miss K./Mandy, and David Sheehan, the Kid

I’m George Walker

Stephen Massicotte’s coming of age play The Jedi Handbook plays March 29- April 13 in the Ted Jones Playhouse of the Bloomington Playwrights Project.

David Sheehan plays a lonely kid who moves to a new town and a new school right around fifth or 6th grade it’s 1977. When the first Star Wars film comes out the Kid hooks up with a fellow fan, James played by Josh Carroll through the code of phrases from the movie. In an acting tour de force both Sheehan and Carroll manage to convince me that they’re a couple of preteen Star Wars dorks. The two suffer through elementary school with Lucy Farmer appearing as their discipline happy teacher, Miss K. and Anna Doyle as Kerry, a class note passer and troublemaker.

Our male duo, bound by their Star Wars connections continues through a rich though slightly too long first act. The intermission at the BPP features television ads for Star Wars toys. I had no idea that there were so many of them and that there were so many ads. The Caucasian preteen testosterone levels are pretty high. In ten or fifteen minutes I saw one African American and one girl. In The Jedi Handbook’s next act, the second film has come out and our boys have more to deal with. We’re in eighth grade and as you might have heard, girls mature before boys. Kerry bones up on Star Wars to keep company with the Kid and Lucy Farmer switches from the uptight Miss K to a quite seductive Mandy with her eyes on James. As you might guess, uncomfortable scenes ensue. A highlight is…one including roller skating with one skate….

Producing Artistic Director Chad Rabinovitz has assembled a well-trained, accomplished and attractive quartet of actors for the show. Shane Cinal’s scenic design with plenty of moving parts out front and a lovely high tech backdrop comes alive in Jeffrey Small’s lighting. Sound design by Joel Watson anticipates, is keyed to, follows and often stands alone in this quite human story. Leraldo Anzaldua has done great work with overall movement and a very exciting light saber dual with additional help from fight choreographer Douglas Seldin.

In the finale the Kid is a grown up and looks back in a speech to us. He’s wondering if we forget what we were as children, if becoming a grown up involves a loss as well as an empowerment. And he’s wondering if “the force” may have a place in our lives.

The Bloomington Playwrights Project’s production of Stephen Massicotte’s The Jedi Handbook plays March 29-April 13 in the Ted Jones Playhouse

At the theatre for you, I’m George Walker

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