In Everyman Theatre’s upcoming play, Everything is Wonderful, family tensions and struggles of faith reverberate leaving audiences asking themselves, “What does it mean to forgive?” Baltimore OUTloud recently chatted with director Noah Himmelstein to discuss the upcoming performance.
“This play is so surprising and extraordinary,” Himmelstein began, “in that it deals with a family having various kinds of crises of faith and relationships.” As the story unfolds, audiences find an Amish couple whose two sons are killed in a car accident. The family struggles to maintain their faith and cling to their way of life. However, in an act of unfathomable forgiveness, they take in Eric, the wayward young driver of the car. But Eric’s mistake cracks open the family’s dark history and brings home their eldest daughter, Miri, who was excommunicated five years earlier. Miri returns to find her family in shambles, the man who killed her brothers living in the barn, and the man who drove her away intent upon marrying her younger sister.
“We are taken as outsiders into a community most of us have not been inside of.” Himmelstein continued, “We are asked to put our feet in the shoes of a closed community, and the contradictions and questions, joy and heartbreaks of that society mirror our own. The Amish community is filled with faith and love, and I’m so happy that this play shows this community in a very realistic light. It doesn’t romanticize it but shows how gritty and fascinating it is.”
The director continued. “For this performance, audiences can expect a very different point of view in terms of characters and relationships, but one that is universal. We are using the entire width of the Everyman stage, which is so vast and huge. In my opinion, it’s one of the widest sets we’ve ever had.”
Himmelstein’s excitement for this production is intertwined with the fact that the universal themes will leave audiences reflecting upon their own lives. “I’m excited to bring these communities into the audience and push the boundaries a bit. [The production] also deals with questions about forgiveness. The parents in our story take in the driver of the car which killed their sons. A transformation occurs based on forgiveness.” Himmelstein added, “There’s a quote that says: forgiveness happens in an instant, but reconciliation is a journey. I’ve done a lot of research on different faiths and people who find forgiveness. For me, forgiveness is releasing the weight of your own heart. It’s more for yourself than it is for the other person. It’s a daily practice and sometimes it’s very hard. Sometimes we have clarity and it’s truly something that we all need in varying degrees to move forward and really see each other.”
“Working on this play, and having those conversations with the cast, designers and our fabulous playwright Chelsea [Marcantel] has helped to establish this as a common theme. It’s about a family dealing with forgiveness, and in this case the container is an Amish family. However, it’s really all of our families. Whether it’s a family who is black, white, Jewish, or Muslim; this story has allowed for forgiveness to be tangible, and that it is something that little by little can transform our lives.”
Himmelstein added. “If we are to move forward after this particular situation in the White House, and if we are to find common ground as a country, this play is about releasing anger and finding forgiveness even in situations when it seems unfathomable. For all of us, what could be a better message to receive when we go to the theater as to who we can strive to be and seek forgiveness in any way we can in many parts of our lives.”
- Since 2011, arts writer Frankie Kujawa has covered a wide scope of entertainment stories and celebrity interviews. From the late Carrie Fisher and LGBTQ icon George Takei to comedians Lily Tomlin and Kathy Griffin to performer Idina Menzel, Kujawa’s candid interview ability brings readers past the byline and into the heart of the story. His unbiased previews of Baltimore-Washington’s theatre scene have allowed readers an inside glimpse of today’s most popular local and national performances. A Baltimore-native, Kujawa is proud to call Charm City his home.