Thursday, January 31, 2019

Review of Cardboard Piano at TimeLine Theatre Company

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Cardboard Piano. It was by Hansol Jung and it was directed by Mechelle Moe. It was about a girl named Chris (Kearstyn Keller) whose parents were missionaries in Uganda. She falls in love with a girl from the township, Adiel(Adia Alli) and we meet them on the day of their marriage, but it is not legal or considered acceptable by their parents or the community. After they have secretly exchanged vows, they accidentally alert rebel soldiers of their whereabouts. One of the soldiers, Pika (Freedom Martin), is trying to escape the rebel army, which he was forced to join, and he takes refuge in the church. But he is followed by a soldier (Kai A. Ealy) who wants to take him back by any means possible. The second act takes place in the same church, but about fifteen years later. It is about love, forgiveness, and the prospect of change. I thought this was very moving and beautifully suspenseful. I had so much love for the characters and really cared about how the story would turn out.

I really liked the relationship between Adiel and Chris. I think the main reason why I grew to love them so quickly was because of how pure their relationship is. They had so much hope invested in each other and everything seemed new and beautiful to them. They love each other so much that they would leave everything behind for each other. And even though they get into arguments, they still find a way to agree. I think that it is interesting that the tape recorder is used to record their wedding vows as well as the judgment and forgiveness Chris gives to Pika later in the act. This one tape contains Pika's confessions of the murders he has committed as a soldier and Adiel and Chris's confessions of their love for each other.

This play sheds light on a relevant problem in the Christian community, which is homophobia. It is true that the Bible condemns homosexuality as a sin. But there are a lot of sins that people trying to defend their homophobia may also commit that are actually in the ten commandments (unlike homosexuality). Both Pika and Paul (Ealy), the new pastor of of Chris's family's former church, believe that homosexuality is a sin, but both of them have done far worse things to people than loving who they want to love. Forgiveness is very important to both Pika and Paul when it comes to getting forgiveness for themselves, but it doesn't seem like they show any mercy or give anyone else a chance before going to extremes. I understand why they are like this because their entire community has told them that feeling attraction to the same sex is utterly wrong. And they had very traumatic childhoods. But I hoped that by them seeing that gay people can help strangers and show devotion to people and give second chances, they would realize that how they were taught was wrong.

The story of the cardboard piano is told twice in this show in two different contexts by two different people. The first time it is a desperate attempt by Chris to show Pika that he can trust her because she knows what it is like to have done something wrong. The story is about how Chris's dad made her a piano out of cardboard when she was little because she wanted a real one so badly. She is so disappointed that it isn't a real piano that she tears it up. But then her father goes into his office with the ruined piano and Chris starts to think he may never love her again. Her father finally opens the door and he has completely rebuilt the piano and gives it back to her, saying "Every time we break something, it’s okay, so long as we fix it." It is basically saying we make mistakes but as long as we don't cover them up and act as if they never happened, it's okay. The story is retold by Paul's wife Ruth (Alli) when she tells the story of how they got engaged. In that version of the story it is not a father and daughter, it is a husband and wife, which changes the dynamic. This version of the story is less about taking responsibility and working together to fix things and more about the husband's hard work being ruined and him striking a bargain to get what he wants--his wife to stay with him. I think that says a lot about each of the characters and what they value.

People who would like this show are people who like analyzing religion in a creative way, adorable secret lesbians, and dueling cardboard pianos. I think this show is really beautiful, heartbreaking, and amazingly acted. All the elements in this play were beautifully done. I think that people should definitely go see this show. It moved me a lot and I think it has important insights.

Photos: Lara Goetsch

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