|Rebecca Olson and Heather Hawkins in Gidion's Knot (photo by Paul Bestock)|
Gidion's Knot by Johnna Adams
Seattle Public Theater
through April 20
It is kind of ironic that children under age 13 are discouraged from coming to Seattle Public Theater’s gritty production of Gidion’s Knot, though they really shouldn’t. The irony is due to the subject matter of this two-hander that every parent and teacher and person who cares about children should see! Gidion is a ten year old boy. It is his mystery that needs untangling.
This is an intense 70 minute “real time” play about a parent-teacher meeting no one you know should ever want to be a part of. Directed with a sure hand by Shana Bestock, the two actors, Rebecca Olson and Heather Hawkins go toe to toe with a welter of emotions and justifications. Rarely will you see such bald emotions on stage, and if you do, not often will those emotions be as well-deserved as these.
Johnna Adams has written a taut and intense drama. The word that keeps leaping to mind is “proportionate.” The emotions are proportionate to the issues, the discussion is proportionate to the mystery, the women are balanced one with the other in strengths and weaknesses, the length of the play is also proportionate to what needs to be said. Everything is measured to the exact amount needed. That in itself is quite a brilliant success.
However, it’s not easy to tell you more because part of what has to happen is to watch the issues unfold in front of you. Threading that needle, though, we are introduced to Corryn, the mother (Heather Hawkins) and Heather, the teacher (Rebecca Olson). There was a conference scheduled, but Heather, the teacher, somehow thinks it was likely cancelled or that Corryn won’t show up. Why she thinks that is left for discovery, but there is a good reason.
Gidion was suspended from school on Friday and it is now Monday afternoon. Apparently, Heather’s note home to Gidion’s mother, Corryn, was terribly vague and Gidion also has not seemed to help his mother understand why he got suspended. So, Corryn needs, badly, to find that answer and others.
Part of the answer is that Gidion wrote something that Heather was threatened by, something disturbing. Here is the brilliant heart of the struggle: one person’s subversive writing might be someone else’s poetry. Adams takes on the penchant schools have these days for “zero tolerance” activities – pointing a finger at a child and saying “bang,” pretending to sword fight with a butter knife, giving another child an aspirin, writing something with some kind of violence implicit or stated.
While neither woman is necessarily someone you like, by the end of the play, you probably clearly understand each of their positions. Corryn scores multiple points on Heather’s background, having researched that Heather has only been teaching for two years after a career in advertising. Also, Heather has no children. But Heather takes the position that children need protection from the dangers of the world. Corryn is far less convinced that children can’t handle all sorts of intricate ideas and is pretty certain that they’ve had some scary ideas all on their own.
Hopefully, your interest is whetted, because I have to give this production an unreserved rave! Please do see this. Bring someone or multiple someones with whom you want to discuss it afterward, because there will be all kinds of parsings and diggings to be had.