|A MOVING PORTRAIT OF THE AMISH AT SART
SHUNNED, winner of Southern Appalachian Repertory Theater, is currently playing in Mars Hill. It’s easy to see why this script won. It’s the riveting story of a splintering Amish family and the son, Levi Yoder, who faces temptations from the outside world.
The cast features excellent performances from some SART veterans and newcomers. Leading the cast is Allen Law, as Levi Yoder, the young man who is unsure of the world and his place in it. The strong supporting cast includes Chris Allison, the Yoder family patriarch, who will do anything to preserve the Amish way of life, Shelby Folks as Mary Yoder, Levi’s sister, Traci Gardner as Katherine Yoder, the mother who was once of the world but wants to be accepted as Amish, Iain Alexander in a wonderful performance as a gay neighbor, Gary Smith, as a shunned Amish man, and Kay Galvin, who is hysterical as the neighbor.
Playwright Larry Parr gave each of the characters in his play complex personalities that reflect the show’s themes. Levi Yoder is simultaneously intelligent, curious, and naïve. His father, driven by love, is unbending in his conviction the Amish way is the only way. He is highly spiritual yet bawdy and earthy. His mother has left her success in the world for her family, and she is more apt to see both sides of issues. Mary Yoder, Levi’s sister, is young, innocent and full of life and fun, which leads to a major family crisis. Another young man hates the Amish who shunned him, yet wants to return to the only life he knows how to live. And a customer at the Yoder’s produce stand who Levi befriends turns out to be gay much to Levi’s shock. “I never knew there were any gay people in all of Indiana.”
The show’s themes of alienation and the universal feeling of loneliness enhance the wonderful storyline that is in turns hilarious, touching, and tragic. The play captures the audience’s attention, never letting our interest wane.
The questions it raises are complex and deep, and the playwright wisely allows theatergoers to answer these questions for themselves. This is very fitting, in a play whose major theme is the idea of there being many different paths through life, many ways to find God, and who is to say only one way to live life is the only way?
The night I saw shunned, it received an instant and lengthy standing ovation. Don’t miss it. It may well be one of the most thought provoking shows you’ll see in a long time.