Any story about latchkey siblings, left to fend for themselves weeks at a time, certainly suggests dire possibilities for young characters lacking adult supervision.
But A. Rey Pamatmat’s low-key 2011 drama “Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them,” presented by Seattle Public Theater with a sharp, agreeable cast of three, reveals a different problem for children who are home alone.
Spunky 12-year-old Edith (Sara L. Porkalob) and her older brother Kenny (Jose Abaoag), left to their own devices in a Midwestern farmhouse, struggle to maintain sensible standards the way grown-ups would: budgeting money for groceries, working out transportation for school and choir, trying to stay safe.
But with a deceased mother and offstage father living with his girlfriend, high-school kid Kenny has become one of those young people largely stripped of youth. Kenny is overwhelmed by responsibilities yet so hopeful Dad will get it together, he won’t criticize his absent parent.
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Meanwhile, feisty tomboy Edith races around with a pellet gun, her hubris barely masking anger and fear over abandonment. Despite the siblings’ precariousness (Dad forgets to put money in their food account), there are few eruptions of anxiety.
Pamatmat has written “Edith,” set in the 1980s, as something akin to an old-fashioned, after-school television drama, presenting an issue relevant to youth in an emotionally balanced, safe fashion. (The play’s biggest crisis is discussed during an ice-cream run.)
Director David Gassner reinforces a near-kitsch tone with familiar Disney music from an even earlier time in children’s entertainment. Despite a couple of overwritten scenes (Kenny’s description of his mom’s death is needlessly complicated), an atmosphere of innocence perfectly sets up this play’s other major relationship: a budding romance between Kenny and his “study buddy,” the nerdy Benji, played by Tim Smith-Stewart. (Note: The boys’ dialogue often gets sexually explicit.)
When the latter is outed at home and thrown out, all three kids become an improvised, reconstituted family of sorts. Uncertainty hovers, but the gentle way this surreptitious love affair unfolds — half-sophisticated, half-giddy — proves unexpectedly refreshing.
Tom Keogh: email@example.com