By Johnna Adams
Directed by Joe Jahraus
At Profiles Theatre’s, Ally Stage, Chicago
Thought-provoking drama about bullying, teacher/parent responsibility and school system failures is a gem!
Credit Profiles Theatre for selecting Johnna Adams’ riveting, well written two-handerm, Gidion’s Knot. This drama will provoke after show discussions since it deals with the gray area of teacher-student relationships as well as child-parent relations. It also deals with school system failures and the issue of freedom of expression especially with 5th grade students.
Gidion’s Knot is a 85 minute one-act play that is set in a 5th grade elementary school classroom (fine set design by Katie-Bell Springmann). Heather (Laura Hooper) is the emotionally drained teacher waiting for someone or something at the end of her school day. See keeps looking at her mobile phone; she is worried. When a middle aged woman, Corryn (Amy J. Carle) opens her door, Heather appears startled when she realizes that Corryn is at her room for the schedules teacher-parent conference that was arranged the Friday before (it is now the next Monday). Heather never thought that Corryn would keep the meeting since her son and Heather’s pupil died that Friday after being suspended from the school.
But Corryn, a strong-willed college professor, is determined to find out why her son, Gidion committed suicide after being suspended earlier on the Friday. Heather seems uneasy, even hostile toward Corryn expressing that Corryn should be grieving rather than inquiring about the events at school. But Corryn pushes on determined to find out what happened at school that could have contributed to an eleven year old to kill himself.
As the two adults verbally debate and argue their fraught conversation about the recent suspension, a tangled web of overlapping events, concerns and opposing philosophies come into play that shaped the tragic outcome. I can’s say too much more so as not to spoil the power and the complexity and nuances of the points-of-view expressed by these two flawed yet intelligent women. Playwright Johnna Adams’ script contains strong and complete arguments from the mother’s and the teacher’s perspective. She also has an eye as to the nature of the world of 5th graders as she realizes that they are not, in the 21st Century, naively innocent children. She gives us a glimpse into the cruelty of their world where bullying and conforming are all important. The work ponders the question was Gigion bullied or was he the one doing the abusing? And was his exquisitely written story a literary piece or a dreaded hint of violence? Where is the teacher’s responsibility come into play and when does a fiction story warrant s suspension?
These are a few of the dilemmas that this powerful drama explores. It is also a battle of wills and personalities. The two exhibit aggression and defensiveness both believe they are right. And to one degree or another, they believe themselves responsible for the death of the child. The helplessness of adults to protect their children while allowing them the freedom to grown up is a strong subtext here.
I was mesmerized by the performances here. Laura Hooper plays the distraught teacher with a tear-eyed melancholy as well as a staunch defender of her actions. Amy J. Carle is commanding as the free-thinking college literature professor with a feminist and independent spirit. Both move in and out of aggression and vulnerability as the conference takes unpredictable turns. This is a riveting, explosive drama filled with catharsis that yields no plausible resolution for either. This is theatre at its finest: a rich script played truthfully by two fine actors. Find time to experience this moving work.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: January 26, 2104
For more info checkout the Gidion’s Knot page at theatreinchicago.com
At Profiles Theatre’s The Ally Stage, 4147 N. Broadway, Chicago, Il, call 773-549-1815, tickets $35 – $40, Thursdays & Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 5 & 8 pm Sundays at 7 pm,running time is 85 minutes without intermission n, through March 9, 2014.