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America is Hard to See

20 Members say: Thought-provoking, Absorbing, Ambitious, Intelligent, Great acting
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About the show

Using a blend of interviews, archival research, Methodist hymns, and original songs, this new play investigates the lives in and around a rural community for sex offenders, buried deep in Florida's sugarcane fields. More…

During late fall in 2015, members of Life Jacket traveled to southern Florida to interview the marginalized residents of Miracle Village. The team has transformed their academic field research into an unflinching play about darkness, uncertainty, and the painful process of healing in small-town America.


95
Stage Left

"A powerful and provocative evening of theatre that is deeply unsettling, surprisingly humane, and ultimately uplifting...Inspiring tough soul-searching and difficult questions for those willing to ask them...A weighty piece that reminds you of the powerful role theatre plays...It is uncomfortable...guaranteed to challenge your assumptions...You will emerge both changed and eager to continue the conversation. And that is the highest praise I can give any piece of theatre." Full Review

90
Gay City News

"When you hear that there is a new play with music about an enclave of people on the sex offense registry, the tendency might be revulsion or demurral. If you can’t get past that initial reaction, you will missing out on one of the finest theatrical experiences of the season...The uniformly excellent ensemble is rounded out by Joyce Cohen who, like the rest of the cast, seamlessly takes on multiple roles in a story that by turns surprises, informs, and moves." Full Review

85
Theatermania

"While writer and director Travis Russ takes a sympathetic view of the play's subjects, he is not naive about the fact that we all construct myths to help us live with ourselves and the choices we have made...With lyrics drawn entirely from real interviews, Holbrook's original songs are honest and tuneful...Everyone in the cast either sings or plays an instrument, and their powerful performances electrify an already supercharged script." Full Review

85
Exeunt Magazine

"Life Jacket Theatre has proven itself to be a strong new practitioner in this genre…The play depicts those characters with empathy, but also honesty… And the show raises profound questions worth pondering…Cast members prove adept at switching between multiple roles…It’s not easy to craft a nuanced story about a population so routinely and swiftly demonized. But Life Jacket Theatre makes the case that such an exercise is not just possible, but necessary." Full Review

80
Yes Broadway

"The show has a documentary feel, using transcripts from actual interviews to bring the characters and story to vibrant life with traditional Methodist hymns and new music woven into the story. The result is visceral and gut-wrenching theater that permeates with sadness...This play asks questions that make you consider the humanity, first and foremost, of the accused...Dig deep within yourself during 'America Is Hard To See' and you might even walk out with a sense of...optimism and hope?" Full Review

80
The Gay & Lesbian Review

"The plot has a way of entangling us into a world we would much rather keep at a safe distance, while simultaneously laying bare our perverse cultural appetite for the spectacle of criminality...Provides a complicated—and at times sympathetic—glimpse into the lives of one of the most loathed groups in America: registered sex offenders...The audience cannot walk away from this piece without feeling incredibly uncomfortable and morally compromised...Heartbreaking." Full Review

70
The New York Times

"A smart and troubling new piece of documentary theater...Russ's script isn't always helped by his direction, which is sometimes less clear than it needs to be...Music and lyrics by Priscilla Holbrook that are often lovely but don’t always fit smoothly into the action...Arrives at an awkward time to ask for sympathy for these men...But this play, an investigation of transgression, redemption, and the limits of compassion, takes a hard, uncomfortable look at forgiveness." Full Review


100
Exquisite, Great acting, Masterful, Profound, Great staging

See it if The best piece of documentary theater I've ever seen. Compassionate, challenging, and hopeful.

Don't see it if This play looks so directly at crime and punishment in America: it's upsetting but absolutely worth it.

97
Absorbing, Ambitious, Masterful, Must see, Relevant

See it if You are interested in important societal topics in America.

Don't see it if You are squeamish or triggered by the topic of pedophilia.

97
Absorbing, Intelligent, Masterful, Underrated, Compelling

See it if you’re open to the idea that some people capable of awful crimes are also capable of acute remorse. AIHTS succeeds @ walking a fine line.

Don't see it if the idea above isn’t constructive to you; you’re appalled/uninterested by the show’s blurb. (The mktg’s entirely accurate re tone, content.)

Also See it if you’re a skeptical person. AIHTS has a way of encouraging sk... Read more Read less

95
Intense, Thought-provoking, Masterful, Disturbing, Moving

See it if Lives of paroled sex offenders in an isolated community. Complex people with a lot to offer despite their crimes. Beautiful songs & vocals.

Don't see it if The play forces you to open up to these people, but it is disturbing to do so. Explicit descriptions of sex acts with minors.

Also Superb performances

95
Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Intelligent, Resonant

See it if You're in the mood for an intelligent and absorbing piece of theater that explores sometimes-uncomfortable subjects with nuance and heart.

Don't see it if You aren't open to the idea of a show about convicted sex offenders.

95
Absorbing, Ambitious, Edgy, Intelligent, Great writing

See it if Tough topic well handled. Amazing performances. Makes you think.

Don't see it if You don’t J.T. want your opinions screwed with. Or pedophiles

93
Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Must see, Relevant

See it if you're game to see different and challenging work. The show is beautifully constructed w/ the necessary juxtaposition of troubling and human

Don't see it if content on humanizing sexual offenders would be triggering, or if you don't want a serious night of theatre. Funny moments but heavy content

92
Absorbing, Intense, Thought-provoking, Profound, Great singing

See it if you like musicals based on real people and events, and if you value an exploration of morals, sin, and sexuality.

Don't see it if you're squeamish about sex offenders and aren't willing to reevaluate your views.

Also Poignant and compelling exploration of a community of ostracized sex o... Read more Read less

92
Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Must see, Profound

See it if you want to see an incredible piece of theatre from amazing acting of an important story, beautiful staging and lighting, and stunning songs

Don't see it if you don't want your views on sex offenders/sexual abuse complicated, or if you want to come out with a solid opinion.

Also The notes reference Our Town and this really is a story of a whole com... Read more Read less

92
Great acting, Thought-provoking, Must see, Engaging, Less-than-original-but-in-an-ok-way

See it if You enjoy looking at the underside of the world in which we live told in creative “moment work” fashion by actors at the top of their games.

Don't see it if You’re looking for cohesive docudrama with a clear thesis. This play inspires research, but doesn’t seem to have a case of its own.

90
Absorbing, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if You like challenging theater about challenging subjects - it prompted a long discussion among my friends about how to deal w/sex criminals.

Don't see it if This show is the definition of trigger warning - pedophiles are allowed to try to charm you; it's true to life, but can be disturbing.

87
Clever, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Must see, Profound

See it if If you hope to have a theater experience make you think, wonder, and question the status quo. Step outside yourself and take a new journey.

Don't see it if If you are incapable of reimagining what we accept to be the normal.

86
Ambitious, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Quirky, Uneven

See it if you enjoy visually stunning forays into the tough ambiguities of human existence.

Don't see it if you're uncomfortable exploring sexual assault.

Also A very interesting and intelligent piece that manages to make clear st... Read more Read less

86
Thought-provoking, Relevant, Great singing, Interesting staging, Creative use of material

See it if you are interested in a wider take on the Me Too movement. The show is incredibly timely. It explores complexity of many points of view

Don't see it if frank sexual descriptions will upset you. The actors interpret actual people describing life experiences. Some of which are disturbing.

85
Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Great singing, Great staging

See it if you like uneasy stories of humanity and the potential for redemption.

Don't see it if the subject matter of sexual abuse is too intense for you.

84
Absorbing, Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Indulgent, Confusing

See it if you like plays drawn from real interviews & tackling uncomfortable subjects, learning how the marginalized struggle, plots that move in time

Don't see it if you are repelled by topic of sexual abuse, don't believe sex abusers deserve redemption, plays that jarringly mix music with dialogue

Also There is something compelling by this work that attempts to demonstrat... Read more Read less

84
Thought-provoking, Great singing, Challenging, Talented actor/singers, Examination of forgiveness

See it if documentary theatre, excellent singer/actors playing mutliple characters, LifeJacket Theatre Co. and Travis Russ' work turn you on

Don't see it if documentation of American pedophilia, difficult topics, inability to think about taboos, would cause you to be miserable watching this show

82
Ambitious, Intense, Thought-provoking, Messy

See it if You are interested in finding out what happens in a town with registered sex offenders as residents sprinkled with love stories and music.

Don't see it if You aren't interested in a play humanizing sex offenders and exploring their lives as people.

Also This was truly an interesting ride. I especially enjoyed all of the hy... Read more Read less

74
Ambitious, Edgy, Thought-provoking, Profound, Resonant

See it if Drama w/music surrounding a community of 'recovering' pedophiles Intense, edgy material eases uneven layout Real subject - quality of mercy

Don't see it if Integration of various story lines is awkward w/Chad's story stealing focus Forgiveness theme wins out over self-knowledge/search of motive

95
Ambitious, Clever, Thought-provoking, Profound, Relevant

See it if a non-fictional tale of redemption of (possibly deceiving) sex offenders sounds interesting

Don't see it if you don't want to be challenged, or you fear feeling uncomfortable


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