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Salon Peer-to-Peer: Almost 13

Almost 13: A “best of” encore performance on the tenth anniversary of the United Solo Festival

Reviewed by Barbara Kahn

Presented by Ego Actus

Written and acted by Joan Kane

The play was written at the La MaMa playwriting symposium in Umbria, Italy 

Director & Designer: Bruce A! Kraemer

Composer & Sound Designer: Ian Werhle

Costume Design: Cat Fisher

Performance: October 4, 2019

There is a 1931 movie version of Elmer Rice’s play Street Scene. The single realistic set is a block of tenements in an urban neighborhood, with a large cast portraying a young brother and sister, the local gossips, other residents and a murder. In Almost 13, Joan Kane enters a stage that is empty except for a small bench, with occasional sound effects and shifts in lighting. Using only her enormous talent, she creates for her audience a city block in South Brooklyn in 1969, the year she was almost thirteen. In smooth transitions, she portrays the characters that were in her life—her mother, her brother, the local priest, the three gossips on the stoop and the self-proclaimed “cop” who protects his Italian Catholic block from the Puerto Ricans who live on adjacent streets. Coin fishing in subway grates, nightly fireworks and Red Hot candies evoke the place and time. Different from the traditional families on the block, and the subject of unrelenting gossip, Sis and her brother Chrissy are raised by a single mom, separated from their father. They cling to each other with the rivalry, the frustrations and always the love that defined their sibling relationship. Eventually we learn of the two pivotal events that inspired the adult Sis to write this memory play, performed with the vulnerability and emotional intensity that make for good drama.

Joan Kane is known by theater colleagues as the go-to director who knows her business. Almost 13 proves her stellar credentials as playwright and actor. 

Barbara Kahn is a playwright, director and actor with annual productions of her plays at Theater for the New City in New York City. She coaches actors and playwrights and offers fundraising for the arts seminars. www.barbara-kahn.com

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