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Paper Plane

nytheatre.com review by Amy E. Witting
August 14, 2012

We open on a cast of five hovering over one umbrella that simply states "In Loving Memory of Judy Windom"A man holding a small child lingers and the adventure begins.  Paper Plane, playing at the New Ohio Theatre, is a story for those who love to use their imagination.  Umbrellas twirl, actors walk on paint cans, a train becomes a drawbridge, and a drawbridge becomes a train.  3 Sticks Theatre Company has perfected the art of using limited resources to create a colorful world that speaks loud and clear to the audience.  Paper Plane is playful, poignant, and keeps you entertained throughout.  While I was pleasantly surprised by this production I would advise you not to let the printed description fool you.  While it is an "adventure story set amongst the dust bowl train tracks and barnstorming exhibitions of the Great Depression, about a young boy hopping freight trains in the American Midwest", at the core is a simple story about a young boy following his dreams.   A young boy longing to put the pieces of his past together while always keeping one eye on his own paper plane.

The stagecraft of Paper Plane is innovative and whimsical.  Each member of the ensemble is a cog in this very fine tuned wheel.  At the center of this story is Joseph, an eleven-year-old boy who is searching for answers; searching for his mother. We meet Joseph just as the Depression is hitting and the Corn Factory is shutting down.  He grapples with the decision of where to go, and what road to travel.  Some of his friends have decided to ride the rails, and Joseph finds himself following in his best friend's footsteps.  The actress who plays Joseph, (I apologize for lack of information but the company did not have a program when I arrived) is a bit awkward as the eleven-year-old Joseph but hauntingly beautiful as the mother later on in the play.  In fact the ensemble moves in and out of different characters with an admirable ease.

Joseph finds new friends and discoveries along the way.  While overall the show was beautiful to watch every step of the way the story fell flat until the magical title number Paper Plane.  We all have our paper planes to chase after and this show reminds us of that.  “I had a dream in the back of my mind.  The courage to follow it was harder to find.”  It is wonderful when you experience theatre that brings us back to the simple concept of creating.  The entire company made excellent use of their resources, and created a beautiful world for us all to enjoy.