Theatre Information

Carol Piersol Gidion’s Knot

By • May 31st, 2013 • Category: Reviews, Virginia
Gidion’s Knot by Johnna Adams
Carol Piersol
HATTheatre, Richmond, VA
Through June 9th
80 minutes without intermission
$25/$18 Teachers/$10 Students Tickets
Reviewed May 30th, 2013

Once again my worlds as a teacher and reviewer have collided; as Carol Piersol presents Gidion’s Knot by Johnna Adams at HATTheatre (yes that’s a mouth full, and I will let the director explain the history in her director’s notes below!)

There are so many unexpected gut wrenching twists and turns in Gidion’s Knot that I really don’t want to unravel them for you, but rather allow you to experience them yourselves. Suffice it to say, the action takes place during a rather contentious parent-teacher conference. Fifth grade Teacher, Heather Clark (Laine Satterfield) and parent, Corryn Fell (Katrinah Carol Lewis) are scheduled to meet to discuss why Fell’s son Gidion was suspended from school.

Many, many issues are discussed and explored during this 80 minute, one-act play. Things start out awkward and nervous. As Fell says, “This doesn’t have to be adversarial, does it?” But, of course, in true to life form, it does. Teachers wonder, “What goes on with that child at home?” and parents wonder, “Why does that teacher hate my child and have it in for them?” Then there are societal questions such as where does a teachers’ job end? Are the students no longer their problem when they walk out the door? What is the parental responsibility in knowing what goes on in school? Are children innocent, fragile and pure and in need of protecting?

All Fell wants to do is get answers. She slowly pieces together the puzzle with little help from Clark. In an educational moment for me, Fell references a child’s project on a Gordian knot. I had to look this up to find that the Gordian Knot is a legend associated with Alexander the Great and is often used as a metaphor for an intractable problem. What an ingenious plot twist and play on words by author Johnna Adams in choosing the title!

Both actresses bring tremendous emotional power to their portrayals. What is most telling of their talent is that long silences contain just as much dramatic power and emotional energy, and speak volumes through what is not said.

Whether it be through angry exchanges, tears, or well-timed awkward humor that breaks the tension; every moment is spell-binding. This class is a class in advanced acting with your soul. Lewis especially has a way of reaching to her very core with a primal scream or whimper or gasping breath. Both actresses’ tears also come from their hearts and never feel contrived or overly dramatic.

The pair bring wonderful nuances to their characters as well. Whether it be the teacher’s OCD in constantly neatly arranging things, or the mother’s succinct and professorial manner of stating facts, both characters are true to life and believable.

The set itself is realistic as well. I have always enjoyed HATTheatre’s intimate space, but it works especially well as a classroom. Not only can you tell that Scenic Designer Daniel Allen had help from real classroom teachers (with a “Book Nook,” “Writer’s Block,” and desks in clusters) but the authenticity went as far as placing actual student desks and chairs for the first two rows in the audience. The clock on the wall is even set to the real-time of action in the play (starting at 2:45) adding a touch of realism to the dynamics of waiting, wanting to leave, etc.

Director Keri Wormald took a great work and 2 great actresses and created an amazing show. My ADHD never kicked in…I was drawn in for the entire 80 minutes. I always try to say something positive and some constructive criticism with every show, but there just really aren’t any negatives. This teacher gives this project an A+!

About the Play

Emerging playwright Johnna Adams has a unique voice and she’s written a play that has something important to say about public schools, creativity, violence and parent/teacher responsibility. As a 20+-year teaching veteran, I am fascinated by the core questions in this play. At parent-teacher conferences, the parents are wondering, “Why do you hate my child?” while the teachers are dying to ask, “What the hell is going on in your house to make your child behave this way?” These questions create natural adversaries if two groups that should, in theory, be working together for the good of children. I’d be interested to see what side our audience members fall down on after witnessing this sometimes-heated conference. If you’re sitting at a desk with a white board, please let us know your thoughts before you leave the theatre!

On a Personal Note

When Laine asked me tor ead this script, Richmond was embroiled in the Firehouse controversy and Time Stands Still, which she and I were both scheduled to work on, was looking more and more doubtful — at least as it had been originally envisioned. I am so pleased that Carol, Laine and I are working on another powerful and important show together, along with billy Christopher and Katrinah (who I love in everything she does). “Homeless” theatre is sometimes difficult, but this experience has been (dare I say it?) fun! Carol is a theatre-maker and I am proud and pleased to be working with her — especially this season. — Keri Wormald

The Cast

  • Heather Clark: Laine Satterfield
  • Corynn Fell: Katrinah Carol Lewis

The Crew

  • Director: Keri Wormald
  • Stage Manager: Reid Kirtley
  • Assistant Stage Manager:
  • Producer: Carol Piersol
  • Associate Producer: Billy Christopher Maupin
  • Scenic Designer: Daniel Allen
  • Lighting Design: Megan Gilbert

Disclaimer: ShowBizradio was provided two complimentary media tickets for this review.

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