Paper Cranes: Access Theater - New York

Betsy Kim
Photo Credit: Lauren Fritz (L-R): Sarah Lord, Melissa Hammans and Susan Louise O'Connor

Bentley-Quinn wraps the plot around the invisible, intangible memories and ideas that both haunt and create who we are.

Paper Cranes

City: New York
Venue: Access Theater

In Paper Cranes, by Kari Bentley-Quinn, a psychological story about human connection and communication unfolds. It’s a play about sex. But as in real life... it’s never really just about sex.

Bentley-Quinn wraps the plot around the invisible, intangible memories and ideas that both haunt and create who we are. She confronts what people need and want from each other in the universal search for love.

Mona (Cynthia Silver), a single mother, attends group therapy to overcome the death of her husband. At home, she cloisters herself in a room, folding paper cranes, inspired by the story of a young girl, Sadako, who survived the bombing of Hiroshima, but became ill from the radiation. Following a belief that folding 1,000 paper cranes could result in a wish coming true, Sadako folded 644 paper cranes before dying of leukemia. The art of origami, the step-by-step routine of folding paper, with order, neatness and crisp creases, offers Mona hope, with the comfort of clear instructions.

She also keeps, folded in a neat, little, sealed envelope, the letter that her husband wrote to her before he died.

Mona lives with her 19-year-old daughter, Maddie (Sarah Lord), a young woman trying to figure out what to do with her life. Julie (Melissa Hammans), who is 34, meets Maddie at a bar and the two become romantically involved. Later, Maddie tells Julie that she sometimes finds being gay complicates life. “Straight people come with instructions. Slot A fits into slot B. Marry. Procreate.”

Yet the instructions for Julie’s best friend, Amy (Susan Louise O’Connor), come with their own complications. Amy meets David (Eric T. Miller) on the Internet. The two of them start a violent, sexual relationship, following their own rules -- instructions that include, “You are not to speak. You are not to cry out unless you absolutely have to…”.

The synapses of psychological pain come full circle. Outside the bedroom, in grieving the death of his girlfriend, through group counseling, David forms a close friendship with Mona.

“Paper Cranes” guides its audience across sexual orientation lines, with a natural ease. The characters express common emotions of anyone injured by love, as the human heart beats, oblivious to sexual orientation, age or age differences:

“I’m just such a moron. I have all these silly romantic obsessions and they always turn out to be completely stupid.”

“We all need things. But you can get what you need without all of this insanity. Someone who’s going to love you.”

“I suggest going and finding your pretty young girlfriend before she tells you to f-off and finds someone else.”

Paper Cranes spells out the difficulties of communicating with people we love or with whom we share a relationship. It provides an honest perspective on desires and expectations, when people choose to communicate about or with sex.

As sex usually involves an emotional and physical component, it can create the psychological state of feeling haunted by something very real but no longer physically tangible, common to the state of grief. David describes his relationship with Amy as “just sex”. With Amy, he tries to bury his sorrows, as all he can see is his dead girlfriend. Physically present with Amy, he is emotionally elsewhere. With Mona, her husband is emotionally overwhelmingly present, but physically gone. In contrast, Maddie yells at her mother: “I try to talk to you! But all you do is sit in that stupid room and drink wine and fold your stupid birds!”

With an emotionally charged stage, crowded with characters, physically there or in the characters’ minds, Bentley-Quinn’s script zeroes in on overcoming loneliness, on love, on sex, on grappling with inner insecurities. Those are not themes, hiding behind separate storylines. Bentley-Quinn makes a brave choice. When directly written about, these subjects can invite clichés and gratuitous sexuality, however, with natural dialogue, sprinkled with well-timed, understated humor, the solid cast effortlessly propels the storyline forward. (Amy rummages through David’s drawers finding a picture of the girlfriend who died, and confesses to Julie: “I know. Not my proudest moment, not by a long shot.”).

The tight script holds the audience’s interest but the romantic depth between Julie and Maddie poses some challenges. Director Scott Ebersold is tasked with maintaining the delicate balance in pacing for action and realistic feel, while juggling subject matters tricky to present on a live stage. An intelligent production, it successfully leaves the audience thinking how sex is an expression of something else.

Paper Cranes written by Kari-Bentley Quinn. Directed by Scott Ebersold. Presented by Packawallop Productions at the Access Theater (380 Broadway, 4th Floor). April 17 - May 8, 2011. For tickets, call (212) 352.3101 or visit or

Betsy Kim is a writer living in New York City.





'World War 3 Illustrated #51: The World We Are Fighting For'

World War 3 Illustrated #51 displays an eclectic range of artists united in their call to save democracy from rising fascism.


Tiphanie Doucet's "You and I" Is an Exercise in Pastoral Poignancy (premiere)

French singer-songwriter Tiphanie Doucet gives a glimpse of her upcoming EP, Painted Blue, via the sublimely sentimental ode, "You and I".


PM Picks Playlist 3: WEIRDO, Psychobuildings, Lili Pistorius

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of WEIRDO, Brooklyn chillwavers Psychobuildings, the clever alt-pop of Lili Pistorius, visceral post-punk from Sapphire Blues, Team Solo's ska-pop confection, and dubby beats from Ink Project.

By the Book

The Story of Life in 10 1/2 Species (excerpt)

If an alien visitor were to collect ten souvenir life forms to represent life on earth, which would they be? This excerpt of Marianne Taylor's The Story of Life in 10 and a Half Species explores in text and photos the tiny but powerful earthling, the virus.

Marianne Taylor

Exploitation Shenanigans 'Test Tube Babies' and 'Guilty Parents' Contend with the Aftermath

As with so many of these movies about daughters who go astray, Test Tube Babies blames the uptight mothers who never told them about S-E-X. Meanwhile, Guilty Parents exploits poor impulse control and chorus girls showing their underwear.


Deftones Pull a Late-Career Rabbit Out of a Hat with 'Ohms'

Twenty years removed from Deftones' debut album, the iconic alt-metal outfit gel more than ever and discover their poise on Ohms.


Arcade Fire's Will Butler Personalizes History on 'Generations'

Arcade Fire's Will Butler creates bouncy, infectious rhythms and covers them with socially responsible, cerebral lyrics about American life past and present on Generations.


Thelonious Monk's Recently Unearthed 'Palo Alto' Is a Stellar Posthumous Live Set

With a backstory as exhilarating as the music itself, a Thelonious Monk concert recorded at a California high school in 1968 is a rare treat for jazz fans.


Jonnine's 'Blue Hills' Is an Intimate Collection of Half-Awake Pop Songs

What sets experimental pop's Jonnine apart on Blue Hills is her attention to detail, her poetic lyricism, and the indelibly personal touch her sound bears.


Renegade Connection's Gary Asquith Indulges in Creative Tension

From Renegade Soundwave to Renegade Connection, electronic legend Gary Asquith talks about how he continues to produce infectiously innovative music.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.


Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.


Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.