Thursday, June 29, 2017

Review of Eclectic Full Contact Theatre's Gideon's Knot

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Gideon's Knot. It was by Johnna Adams and it was directed by Katherine Siegel. It was about a mother, Corryn (Julia Partyka), whose fifth grader had been suspended and he became very devastated by that. So she came in for a meeting with the principal and his teacher, Heather (Michelle Annette), even though something terrible had happened to him since the suspension. It is about the true meaning of art, losing something, and connection. I think this is a very interesting story. It is really hard to talk about this play without giving anything away. So if you haven't seen the show and don't want any **SPOILERS**, you probably shouldn't read any more of the review.

Gideon, who is Corryn's son, wrote a story that got him suspended. It was a very obscene story about how the whole school was murdering the teachers and raping them. His mother thinks it is amazing, but I still don't think it was appropriate for school because other parents might make different parenting choices with their children and those children might find the story scary. I found the story actually quite disturbing because it was a bunch of kids doing terrible things to adults. I think he should have written it, just not as a project in his school notebook. He could have just written it in his diary if he needed to express his anger at his teachers or the school. I don't think we should censor art, but in schools and work places I think we should be sensitive to other people's opinions. If he published it on the internet and changed the names, that could be fine, but as it was it felt like the teachers and students were being attacked and threatened. I think that it is an interesting question to ask what is appropriate for the school. Good art for children is different than for adults because their minds are still developing and their parents want to protect them. Kids can make any kind of art they want, but they need to be careful of where they show it. The teacher is saying "No, he can't do this" and the mother is saying "No, he should be able to do this at school because it is a good story." I think there is a middle ground for them though, where the mother takes into account her son's audience, and the teacher takes into account that it is actually effective writing.

I feel like the way the characters connected at the end seemed forced and fake, just meant to wrap things up neatly. I really enjoyed World Builders by this same playwright, but I feel like in that two-person play they had to come to a conclusion together to make a decision that was best for both of them to stay connected. In this play they just both connected over the fact that they had each lost something, but then they just connected and it ended. I really would have liked to see them wrap it up more and maybe for the connection to be not so uneven. I think it was a little insulting to kids who have killed themselves to compare them to a sick cat. I know when you get a cat, it is important to you, but you sign up for it to die before you. But when you have a child it is likely that they will outlive you, and that is what you expect.

I thought the set (by Josh Leeper) really pulled me into the play. It was so much like a fifth grade classroom; it had the motivational posters and the slightly creepy, big-smile kids looking at you from the wall. It was just a really immersive set! I liked how there were little hints about the backstory of everyone in the classroom. Like there was the picture of a cat on Heather's desk. Gideon's ball cap was also in the room. And there was a presentation poster by a girl with a stuffed bra and a nose ring that the characters on stage talk about, and I liked how it showed that she wasn't just a dumb girl who wanted to look older than she was, but that she was actually pretty smart and good at presentations.

People who would like this show are people who like slowly-revealed information, grotesque stories by kids, and motivational posters. I think this is a very intriguing show. It has some really good moments. I'm really glad I got to talk about it in review form because it is a complex show and fun to think about.

Photos: Katie Hunter

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