|Rudy Roushdi and Analiese Emerson Guettinger in Brooklyn Bridge (Chris Bennion)|
Seattle Children’s Theatre
Through March 20, 2016
An enchanting play is onstage now at Seattle Children’s Theatre, suitable for ages 6 or 7 and up. Brooklyn Bridge, by Melissa James Gibson, focuses on a bright and articulate 5th grader, Sasha (charmingly played by Analiese Emerson Guettinger) who has a very important research paper due and has struggled to get it onto paper.
The script is full of sparkling dialogue and is meant to address aspects of a lonely latchkey child and the isolation that can create. Sasha is portrayed as a very resourceful child, but in this instance, she must disobey her mother, in order to get the very important paper done by tomorrow. She doesn’t have a pen, at home, and is compelled to leave her apartment, contravening her mother’s instructions, to visit neighbors she doesn’t know to find one.
The first neighbor she meets in the apartment is the very astute Sam (an accessible Rudy Roushdi), a dental student and taxi driver, who pronounces her situation “a predicament” and immediately identifies that her leaving her apartment is a bad thing, but if she finds a pen, then it’s a bad thing that is successful. However, he doesn’t have a pen for her.
She meets three other neighbors, a time-challenged upstairs kook, Trudi (Rebekah Patti), motherly and knowledgeable Talidia (a warm and compassionate Claire Fort), and elderly John (grandfatherly David Pichette).
Each of the neighbors adds a bit to Sasha’s world and opens up opportunities for community and companionship in the future. John, in particular, is a Brooklyn Bridge buff, like Sasha (and she learns what “buff” means) and quizzes her on what she has already researched for her paper. She is encouraged to go beyond the facts and figures to realize what the bridge means to her, and John helps her overcome her reluctance to put her thoughts down on paper.
The production uses actors and support from the UW School of Drama in a hey-do-it-more-often! collaboration. The drama school participants get professional exposure and SCT gets to lower its financial footprint without losing quality.
The storyline and its presentation can reach out to both children and adults, with broad appeal. There are definitely some nits to pick. They don’t generally get in the way of the production, but it is hard to know why they are there or who decided upon them (whether the script is written that way or the production added them).
There are some maybe-for-comic-effect neighbors (labeled “shadowy figures”) who vie to put the hallway potted plant just so. There are moments of flashback where period figures appear to gaze at the bridge during construction or on opening day. There is an upstairs neighbor who is never visited, but is apparently composing a song, but since that neighbor does not interact, that seems a bit useless.
The conflicted Sasha also clearly lies to her mother on the phone. That plus the clear issue of disobeying her mother makes for what could clearly need a conversation between parents and kids on the way home. That isn’t a bad subject to talk about, because “situational ethics” is something we all confront as we grow older. It becomes clear that Sasha might feel like she should not burden her already burdened mother with her school problems, and that Sasha isn’t sure how to manage them herself.
Guettinger is an accomplished actor and fulfills the role perfectly. The other main cast members also do a great job, led by Rita Giomi, a talented and veteran director at SCT.
This is a multi-layered play that raises some potentially rich areas of conversation in your family. Reaching out to your neighbors is a potent possibility.