Childhood is that “innocent phase” all of us go through where we are protected and guided through the first problems of our existence. Here we pick up the life lessons from the adults in our lives, the ones that are in charge of making sure we become functioning parts of the society and don’t let us stray. The obsession this country has to protect the innocence of children is an evolution of the idea of children being these pure beings. A custom so recent that it’s younger than this nation itself. A tradition which is based more on consumerism than actual nurturing, kids used to be encouraged to take practices and skills by the age of six. As soon as they could work, it was another income coming in, which was especially helpful for the many poor families around. Do I agree with it? No, I don’t think children need to start working so early, but I also disagree with the overprotective nature of what “good parenting” means nowadays. In “Gidion’s Knot” this dilemma is in full display with the themes of bullying and sexuality brought up to make a case for both arguments. Should innocence be upheld and kept, or shall kids be free to explore and experienced?
The plot line is simple, for the story part, heavy when it comes to the weight of the situation. A student just committed suicide. A fifth grader. And now the mother of that fifth grader is coming to a parent teacher conference that was set up before, and she wants to honor it. More than that, she seeks enlightenment. On the other side is a teacher in complete distress who has to be ready to battle the knowledge-hungry mother with just school canned responses. But that can only last too long and before they know it the two women are trying to find a place where they both can exist with the tragedy and their hands in it. It is brutal and taxing on these characters to go to the equivalent of a boxing match in this stage with the background they have, so it is a good thing that performers Susan Izatt and Erin Cronican are up to the task. Their performances give these arguments meaning beyond what is being said. The battle of ideologies, morality, and ultimately the desperation of two women that need to get rid of the emotional storm inside of them is played beautifully by these two thespians.
The dialogue and movement under director Brandon Walker is one that moves swiftly, organically, and does not miss a step. The confrontation starts to simmer slightly at the beginning, and I’m not going to lie and say it was perfect. I was hanging by a thread in the first quarter of the play, as the script itself wasn’t moving, but once the simmering started boiling, the actress’ grabbed me. The juxtaposition of medieval literature with current society values lends the script an allure that allows it to build the rest of the events around it. But here’s the catch: in that tangled web of ethics and pointed fingers it’s easy to not notice how thin the whole play ends up being. Johnna Adams has created a piece that raises some poignant question to our times, but is afraid to answer them. And I’m not one that needs the answers to every question, but this feel more like somebody that puts a letter on the table and hopes you read it. It scratches the surface of the topic, but it doesn’t dare go farther than that. The emotional cues barely register since sometimes the characters are more interested in spewing speeches than trying to really know what the other has to say. At the end, funny enough, that didn’t matter. It was in such good hands, that the writing was elevated. It is a rare treat, but one that when it happens, you smile for the people on stage.
The Seeing Place Theater production of Johnna Adams “Gidion’s Knot” is an actor’s play that at the very least will make you think. They are running this in rep with “The Pillowman” by Martin McDonagh. Pillowman is literally one, if not, my favorite written work in theater. To say I get weary when a new production opens might be an understatement. I may have not loved the script for this show, but after this production, I’m very excited to see their version of my beloved McDonagh play. Go see and support this company, they already showed they can do great work.
Out of 4 stars:
Twisted Talk: What was the last show you saw in NYC? Have you seen Gidion’s Knot? Discuss below!