THE CARDBOARD PIANO by Hansol Jung, now playing at The Diversionary Theatre through February 25th is a moving play that focuses on a fragile balance between faith and forgiveness.
A play in two parts it start on New Year’s Eve 1999, as the dawn of the new millennium draws near the future looks bright for Chris and Adiel. Chris (played by Kate Rose Reynolds) is the daughter of American missionaries who helped build the church they are in, and Adiel (played by Andréa Agosto) is a local girl from the village. They have planned to ring in the New Year with a secret wedding ceremony to each other and then plan their future together. As Chris and Adiel both discuss their options as a couple, Chris’ parents are against her lifestyle choice and are trying to get her to move back home with them the next day, and Adiel can’t stay in the village this way either. They are interrupted by Pika (John Wells III), a thirteen year old child soldier who is fleeing his commander (Wrekless Watson) after failing to obey an order.
As the girls choose to help Pika, and Chris helps soothe his wounded soul by granting him forgiveness for whatever he has done in the past. She tells him a story from her life, of how in a fit of anger she hurt her Father’s feelings by breaking something he made her, and her desolation in her belief that their relationship would never recover. But he returns with the gift now fixed, showing her that even acts created through anger or hatred can be repaired with work and love. All of this leads to an eventful and shocking start to the New Year.
The second act opens at the church years later where Paul (Watson) a Pastor, is practicing his sermon for his wife Ruth (Agosto) the past comes back to call when Chris comes back to the church hoping to bury her father’s ashes in the church garden.
The play looks to explore how faith can help heal, but that acts of mercy can have unforeseen consequences. The idea that forgiveness can be freely given, and explores whether that may be as easily deserved as it can be given.
Watson, as Soldier and the Pastor Paul does a remarkable job making the radically different roles so effecting. Particularly as his character Paul tries to reconcile things better forgotten, his emotional and spiritual torment is raw and real.
Reynolds as Chris makes for a credible teenager, in her surety, arrogance, and her skepticism about her parents and her church ever coming around to acceptance of their love. She really blooms as the adult Chris revisiting this church, who is now much more focused and powerful.
Agosto as Adiel is hopeful that the world will be good, and wants to follows the rules to make everything as legitimate as possible. Her belief in her hometown knowledge, her faith, and her love makes her a lovely counterpoint to Reynolds’ Chris. In the second act as Ruth, Agosto is luminous as the perfect Pastor’s wife – a bit feisty, open and warm, and full or forgiveness.
Wells, as Pika in the first act brings a convincing sense of anxiety, both at being found by his superior, and at what the future can hold for someone who has done the deeds that he has done. His panic and emotional confusion helps build the tension and the mayhem as the first act comes to a close.
All of this plays out on a lovely, rustic and simple church set designed by Kristen Flores, which is complimented by Hayley Wolfe’s sound design. The lighting by Curtis Mueller, and the costumes by Jennifer Brawn Gitting’s help fully create this world.
As our modern world seems increasingly fractured by events, judgments, and anger a play discussing how religion, mercy, compassion, and amends can be important, CARDBOARD PIANO feels like a timely production.
CARDBOARD PIANO is playing at Diversionary Theatre through February 25th and show times and ticket information can be found at www.Diversionary.org