I walked into NextStop Theatre Company’s Industrial Park Theatre (where Johnna Adams’ riveting Gidion’s Knot has recently taken up residence after a critically acclaimed run at Forum Theatre) somewhat comforted. Scenic Designer R. Scott Hengen’s set was very familiar – 4 student desks allowing 4 kids to sit at each desk configuration totaling 16 seats. Around the back perimeter of the stage pasted on the wall is a cursive and script alphabet A-Z. A blackboard is placed on the back wall and there are white chalk messages from the teacher- Mrs. Heather Clark, outlining what tomorrow’s assignments will be. On the back of the door is a poster with a cartoon character centered in the middle with these words “Take a Bite out of Crime.” Paul Frydrychowski and AnnMarie Castrigno contributed the effective lighting design.
At first, I digested a somewhat soothing operative. Little did I realize that once the house went dark and the lights came up on the set, that what I would encounter was a wild emotional roller coaster ride. Gidion’s Knot, is the perfect title for this play because I felt the proverbial knot becoming tighter and tighter as the show progressed to its dramatic close.
Gidion’s Knot has two top-notch unforgettable emotional performances provided by Katy Carkuff, playing the 5th grade teacher Heather Clark, who is Gidion’s teacher, and Caroline Stephanie Clay, who plays Corryn – Gidion’s mother. To watch these two characters and actresses do “battle” is an experience that you won’t want to miss. Director Cristina Alicea guides them through one emotional ride after another.
Gidion, who was a member of Heather Clark’s class, never appears on stage during the play. Nevertheless, the entire play is about Gidion. He is always there.
Both teacher and mother paint their own personal pictures of who Gidion was. When these portraits of Gidion are finally completed and after the lights come up at the end, many questions linger. Who really was Gidion? What really lead to Gidion’s suicide? We learn that Gidion was bullied and taunted. At the same time, his mother is lamenting her son’s decision to commit suicide and the loss of a potential great writer who wrote poetry about his teacher and fellow students.
When the phone rang at the end of the play, I was still analyzing what had transpired during the last 70 minutes, which also represented the last 72 hours of these horrific events. First, and most important, I realized that I had to start breathing again. The questions began formulating in my mind and I was hearing conversations from my fellow audience members.
I realized quickly that the answers may be less important than the questions.
Next Stop Theatre Company and Forum Theatre’s co-production of Gidion’s Knot is a Master Class in acting by two exceptional actresses – Caroline Stephanie Clay and Katy Carkuff. You’ll never forget this production and their performances. Don’t miss it!
Running Time: 70 minutes, with no intermission.
Gidion’s Knot is a co-production with NextStop Theatre Company and plays through September 14, 2014, at NextStop Theatre Company’s Industrial Strength Theatre – 269 Sunset Park Drive, in Herndon, VA. For tickets, call (866) 811-4111, or purchase them online.
John Stoltenberg reviews Gidion’s Knot at Forum Theatre.
In the Moment: ‘Gidion’s Knot’ Moves From Forum Theatre to NextStop Theatre Company: Interviews with Artistic Directors Michael Dove and Evan Hoffman and Director Cristina Alicea by David Siegel.
The Playwright’s Playground: Playwright Johnna Adams Discusses Giving Herself Permission to Write and Reveals ‘Gidion’s Knot’ Challenges and the Gordian Knot Analogy by Sydney-Chanele Dawkins.
The Playwright’s Playground: ‘Gidion’s Knot’ Playwright Johnna Adams Speaks About Her Process, Discipline, Inspiration, and Playwriting Paranoia by Sydney-Chanele Dawkins.