“Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them” at Seattle Public Theater

Sixteen is awfully young to be in charge of the family, especially if it includes a charming but willful 12-year-old. That’s the responsibility young Kenny has in “Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them,” a bittersweet tale of love and angst, directed here by David Gassner.

Edith and Kenny are the Filipino brother and sister who face more than their share of adversity in this rather contrived play written by A. Rey Pamatmat. They live pretty much alone on an isolated farm. Mom died a few years ago, and Father has effectively abandoned them. He does provide money, when he remembers, and is an offstage presence from time to time giving orders or reprimanding them over the phone or from his unseen car.

Kenny (played with sensitivity by Jose Abaoag) is a loving brother and an extremely creditworthy one. He does all in his power to make a normal home for his sister and himself. But his life is somewhat confused right now, confused because he has become infatuated with his study mate, Benji. Where Kenny is buff and competent, Benji is a nerdy mama’s boy. Tim Smith-Stewart as Benji has just the right shoulder stoop, reticence, and sly impishness the part calls for.

Unlikely as the romance is, it flourishes. The blossoming relationship between the two young men is one of the strengths of the production. It’s sweet, marked by the naiveté, uncertainties and tenuous moves typical of all first loves. The two actors make us all remember our own first romantic endeavors.

Sara L. Porkalob is marvelous as 12-year-old Edith. She talks to her large stuffed animal, making it a conspirator in all her plans. She jumps, and twists, she wiggles and moves from joy to anger in a minute. She’s bratty; she’s emotionally insecure. And of course she’s rash, a spunky little girl without an adult to help her grow up.

It’s this rash behavior that finally leads to big trouble for Edith, and this time Kenny can’t save her from their father’s wrath. But fear not, the author provides a happy ending.

“Your dad doesn’t care enough. My mom cares too much,” says Benji at one point. What we are reminded of here is that ethnicity, sexual preference, location . . . none of these are as important as parental love.

Through April 21, Seattle Public Theater at the Bathhouse, 7312 W. Green Lake Drive. N., Seattle; $20-$30 (206-524-1300 or seattlepublictheater.org).

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