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The Amish Project

The Amish Project by Jessica Dickey

By Jessica Dickey

Directed by PJ Paparelli

At the American Theatre Company (ATC), Chicago

Impressive performance by Sadieh Rifai presents an explanation of the Nickel Mines shooting

The dramatic retelling of the events of the Nickel Mines Shooting of 10 Amish children October 2, 2006 and the aftermath is a heart wrenching and complex story especially how the Lancaster, Pennsylvania Amish reacted. Told in an amazing tour de force performance by Sadieh Rifai, The Amish Project is a 70 minute drama that attempts to tell the shooting story and the effects on the Amish, the town’s folks and the shooter’s family.

The Amish Project by Jessica Dickey

Sadieh Rifai works hard and essentially succeeds at playing 7 characters ranging from a little innocent Amish girl (her finest moments) to the shooter, his wife and a non-Amish scholar among others. While the show starts off nicely to depict  the charm and innocence of the Amish and their culture, it gets bogged down with too much detail from the non-Amish characters. I quickly got confused by Miss Rifai’s quick transitions from one character to another that had her jump right in to details of that present character that often wasn’t too clear.  The constant back-and-forth between 7 characters dilutes the emotional impact of the story. I’m still wondering how the America, a non-Amish resident of Nickel Mines figures into the whole story?

The Amish Project by Jessica Dickey

This complex structure simply tried too hard to cover too much details especially about the aftermath of the shooting. I yearned for more details about the amazing instant forgiveness by the Amish community including the families of the 10 shooting victims.  If playwright Jessica Dickey would cut much of the clutter from the fringe non-Amish characters and place her focus on the Amish (how and why they are so forgiving), on the motives of the shooter, she would have an even more powerful emotionally impacted drama.


As presented now, The Amish Project, simply get diluted by information overload from too many characters often confusingly moving from one to another. Miss Rifai does her best to make the transitions smooth and her valiant effort almost succeeds. She is talent at the top of her art. I wonder how much stronger the play would be if she didn’t have to struggle with so much information especially the oft trivial kind?

The shooting scenes and the visit by the Amish to the shooter’s family was terrifically presented and acted by Miss Rifai. If the nonessential clutter would be trimmed, The Amish Project would moves us deeper especially in the skilled hands of Sadieh Rifai. Note: the Amish women designed and made the dress Miss Rifai wears during the show.


Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

For more info checkout The Amish Project page on

At ATC, 1909 W. Byron Sy., Chicago, IL, call 773-409-4125,, tickets $35 – $40, Thursdays & Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 3 & 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 70 minutes without intermission, through October 23, 2011

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