by Collin McConnell · October 9, 2013
Indie Artists on New Plays #7: Collin McConnell looks at A Girl Without Wings now playing at IATI Theater
The wonderful thing about telling myths and folklore in the theater - and something we mostly miss in the big-budget houses - is the fantastic need for invention.
An Andean shepherd girl, Chaska, finds herself having strange dreams - dreams of, maybe, flying. And finding herself in the high pasture with her hard-headed ram, she meets a boy who sweeps her off her feet - perhaps literally. She dreams again, and again of flying. When the boy comes to dinner, truths are slowly unraveled, and not everyone is who they seem to be.
A lonely condor discovers a girl who could possibly be more than just a girl. And so he disguises himself as a boy to see if she might be able to love him. But when he comes to dinner, his truths are slowly unraveled and he disrupts the already cracked foundation of the family. The cast of characters - and the performers - are all lovely - from the humorously nagging hummingbirds, to the overly protective ram, to the brooding condor and the wistful Chaska. Not only are they all fully committed to their characters, but they are also working fully as an ensemble, so smoothly shifting and making and becoming all of the different pieces of the world
Jason Williamson's A Girl Without Wings succeeds wonderfully in its physical storytelling. Director Kathleen Amshoff and the work the company did with Emily DeCola and the Puppet Kitchen takes hold wholeheartedly the notion of telling a folk tale. No need for big budget fanfare, though the play is filled with glorious spectacle. Everything is tangible - from footprints to dreams to prayers. Costume designer Angela Harner and set designer Brittany Vasta are fully on board as well, all seamlessly working together to create a rich, coherent world. While the play is lovely to watch inside of a theater, it would not be out of place around a campfire, far from our metropolis and our coffee shops and our expensive taste, and this is wonderful. The world of the play is filled with a great deal of detail - so much so that one cannot help but get lost in it - and was so clearly made with a great sense of play that it is difficult to not be filled with joy just witnessing all the magical transformations.
But more importantly, A Girl Without Wings succeeds in its story. Possibility is at the heart of the play. "Who are we?" is not a big enough question for this play. Instead, it ponders "what could we become?" A condor turns into a human, and a girl wonders if she could fly, and the only character who fully sees what lies beneath either of them is Chaska's damaged father - beautifully portrayed by Andrew Clark with tenderness and a bit of whimsy, but with a firm strength lurking underneath. But possibility is not enough. We must face fear, and we must take risks. Facing fear does not, however, always mean taking a risk to get what one wants. Sometimes, it is risky to give someone else what they want or need. Sometimes, a girl who is too scared to fly just wants some shoes. And if you give her shoes, perhaps she'll take the risk to fly.