Did you ever think that the rows of desks in an empty classroom sort of look like the precisely arranged headstones in a graveyard? Neither did I, until I saw Gidion’s Knot now at None Too Fragile Theater.
No, this isn’t a play about a school shooting, but there certainly is some psychological carnage left in the wake of this flawed but fascinating piece by Johnna Adams. And NTF’s two-person cast, Alanna Romansky and Jen Klika, negotiate many twists and turns with powerful emotional clarity.
Set in a vacant fifth grade classroom, teacher Heather is surprised by a visit from the mother of one of her students. Corryn has arrived for a previously scheduled parent-teacher conference, but Heather had erased the appointment for a reason we learn a bit later.
Turns out Corryn’s son Gidion was suspended and mom wants to find out why. This leads both parent and teacher through a maze of suppositions and accusations. Was Gidion being bullied by a classmate? Was he aware that a girl sitting next to him had a crush on him?
These very normal 11-year-old moments of angst are played off against much deeper and more disturbing issues, especially when Heather is forced to read a gruesome story Gidion wrote that led to his suspension.
Corryn’s unexpected reaction to that story, and the discussion it ignites, send the two women into reflections on art, education and morality that are truly intriguing. Sure, Adams’ script veers off into a little too much didacticism. And a faint subplot about Heather’s ill cat, thrown in as a counterpoint to the other events, is just ridiculous.
But in the main, this is a play about real ideas. Under the direction of Sean Derry, the actors ride the many pauses where real conversation hides its true nature.
As Heather, Romansky tries to keep her physical and emotional distance from the seething Corryn and still manages to register her own responsibility and humanity in this difficult confrontation. And Klika lands several telling moments as Corryn—especially when, she excoriates Heather for her reaction to the story: “He couldn’t fit into a box cut to your dimensions!”
In less than 80 minutes, Gidion’s Knot provides a snarl of feelings generated by the animal protectiveness of parents and the subversive yet unavoidable influence institutions have on our lives. In short, it leaves you plenty to talk about for the rest of the evening.
Through April 19 at None Too Fragile Theater, 1835 Merriman Road, Akron (Enter through Bricco Pub), 330-671-4563.