2023 Capital Fringe Review: ‘Almost 13’ by Joan Kane (4 1⁄2 stars)

A touching and well-crafted solo drama delivered with pathos and sincerity.

Joan Kane went through a lot as a child in Brooklyn in the 1960s. The kind of events that take years of therapy to come to terms with. Lucky for us, Kane has done the hard work to process, heal, and ultimately share her experiences in the form of the touching and well-crafted 50-minute solo drama Almost 13, now playing at the Capital Fringe Festival.

Kane narrates Almost 13 from the perspective of her present-day self relating the events that changed her life in the hot summer of 1969 when she was, you guessed it, almost 13. Her story starts as one that will be familiar to many of her generation. She grew up in an Italian, Catholic neighborhood in an era when working-class people of specific backgrounds maintained a protectionist (racist?) attitude towards “others.” In Kane’s case, it was Italians guarding their block from the Latinos who were starting to populate the neighborhood. I remember my grandfather telling similar stories about his Czech block in Cleveland that didn’t mingle with the Slovaks a few blocks over.

Kane was mostly on her own as a child, being raised by a single mother who did her best but was often absent while trying to keep a roof over their heads. One day, the young Kane was inadvertently on the scene of a murder, the aftershocks of which altered the course of her life and left her with a profound sense of right, wrong, and the need to speak out against the hate crimes that still occur far too often in neighborhoods across America.

As the playwright and sole performer of this story, Kane does an admirable job both in crafting a story with a fine and compelling arc and also in delivering the story with pathos and sincerity. Over the course of the play, Kane assumes the personas of a myriad of characters including herself at age 12, her mother, her brother, the old “biddies” who sat on the Brooklyn stoops gossiping and judging, the head of the local street gang the South Brooklyn Boys, and others.

While some of her accents were a bit off (the one Latin character in the show sounded Russian), and her performance could have been infused with a bit more zing, for the most part, the show kept the audience spellbound. I don’t mind admitting that I shed a few tears at the end of her story.

Kane has partnered with Bruce A! Kraemer, who directs the show and handles the minimal lighting and sound requirements. Kane and Kraemer seem like a tight-knit team. Both handle the moments when the show goes to very dark places with stylistic grace. Almost 13 is playing at Capital Fringe as part of a larger tour of the U.S. and Canada. Catch it where you can.

Running Time: 50 minutes.

Almost 13 plays July 20 at 6:00 pm, July 22 at 8:00 pm, and July 23 at 2:15 pm presented by the Ego Actus Theatre Company at Squirt – 1st Floor – 1050 Thomas Jefferson. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online.

Genre: Drama
Director: Bruce A! Kraemer
Playwright: Joan Kane
Performer: Joan Kane
Solo Production: yes
Age appropriateness: Recommended for Children 13 + older

The complete 2023 Capital Fringe Festival guidebook is online here.


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