“26 Pebbles,” Build the World with Love @ Theatre 40
“26 Pebbles” is a play that is a remarkable tribute to the participants and precious souls lost in the national tragedy, known as Sandy Hook, referring to Sandy Hook Elementary School, where on December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 children and six adult staff members. Before committing this heinous act, he murdered his own mother in their Newtown home. The show’s set is stark, yet surreal, as it basically consists of 6 childlike, colored blocks, which the actors (Jennifer Lee Laks; Joe Lorenzo; George Villas; Jean Kauffman; Michele Schultz and Roslyn Cohn) perch on, as they deliver this powerful, poetic recollection. At the beginning, there is a comparison between Australia and America , in that quite a few residents of this small town hail from “down under,” and a discussion can be sparked on how so few in their society are killed, as opposed to the U.S. Sadly, the NRA has perpetuated the gun culture to the point of occurrences like Sandy Hook, Columbine, Orlando, and on and on, ad nauseum. The play is positioned like an “Our Town,” or “Under Milkwood,” as we see members of the community come together: the housewife, the Rabbi, the pastor, the father, the teacher, all played brilliantly by this talented ensemble, all trying to deal with the horror of this event. Specifically, that this horror took place in their very own “village,” small town USA, a place where the adults are usually involved in ‘hum-drum’ activity, mostly struggling with the boundless responsibilities of raising children and providing them with all the tools to become ‘good grownups.’ The underlying theme of the show is revealed by words that the cast writes on a chalkboard, words such as love, hope, compassion, and together. To put it simply, they do not wish to be remembered as a place where 26 souls were extinguished, but that their legacy is the gut wrenching decision to move on. Or, as in Buddhist principles, to find their ‘inner peace,’ even though it seemed as if when their children died, a piece of the parents died as well. There are wonderful, symbolic effects used, such as a bell, summoning kids to dinner, which eerily sounded like the one used to sound out the names of the 9-11 victims; also the effective use of candles to symbolically shed some light on the horrific darkness that floods this hapless town; and the use of a backdrop screen that showed an Obama speech, where he talks about gun control and violence. Very few plays have yet delved into this sensitive subject ( possibly, only “Come From Away,”) on Broadway, and director Jules Aaron and writer Eric Ulloa are to be commended on bringing this story to stage. Jules Aaron is the genius who directed this play, and his list of credits and accolades are simply too long to detail here. But the evidence is a stunning production, worthy of the fine work consistently emanating from Theatre 40. This show will certainly invoke the necessary discussion and dialogue that we in America need to have. See “26 Pebbles,” and be richly rewarded.