America is Hard to See review at Underbelly Cowgate, Edinburgh – ‘compelling and well-crafted’
Miracle Village is a community in Florida’s Palm Beach County, somewhere deep in sugarcane country – a community for registered sex offenders. Travis Russ’ verbatim play America is Hard to See, making its European premiere after an award-winning off-Broadway run last year, takes you on a tour of the town, its residents, their recriminations and their regrets.
A superb six-strong cast mix interview snippets with live music, etching out the day-to-day lives of Miracle Village’s inhabitants, then delving back in time to uncover the crimes they committed.
It’s not particularly pleasant – their crimes are horrific, and mostly against minors – but writer-director Russ manages to find a plaintive poignancy in their stories nonetheless, and genuine joy in their religious redemption at the hands of a local pastor. Priscilla Holbrook’s score is a melancholy, folksy delight, too.
It’s compelling and creative throughout, but it’s not as gnarly or knotty as it should be. The voices of the victims – aside from on one or two occasions – are awkwardly absent. Russ claims to be ethically even-handed, but he clearly wants us to sympathise with his subjects. Using real people’s words, he deftly documents a tricky tale – but only one side of it.
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