The truest form of magic in the theater happens when talents combine to take the ordinary and turn it into the extraordinary.
Mark Clements and his band of smart and creative warriors have fashioned an extraordinary evening with the production of “Things I KNow To Be True,” by Australian playwright Andrew Bovell.
The very ordinary fabric of daily life is the mise-en-scéne for a family of six facing a non-stop series of perfectly ordinary crises ranging from a teenage broken heart all the way to a son struggling with gender identity.
The evening starts innocently enough, with the teenager, Rosie (Aubin Heglie) telling the story of her youthful hike through Europe and her falling in love with a Spanish libertine who takes her to bed for three straight days before leaving and breaking her heart.
Alone on the stage she regales us with the kind of rapture reserved for the young. And then comes the morning when she finds herself alone, her money and other stuff stolen and a strange woman smoking a cigarette who tells her to leave this apartment.
“I walk through the streets of Berlin. I feel small. I feel like I’m 12 years old, I feel ridiculous. I want to cry but I won’t. Well I do, a little. But not as much as I want to. I want my dad. I want my Mom. I want my brothers and my sister. I want to hear them laugh and argue and fight and tease me. But I can’t think of them much because if I do my chest will explode. I feel like I’m going to literally fall to pieces. That my arms are going to drop off and then my legs and my head. And so to stop myself coming apart I make a list of all the things I know…. I mean actually know for certain to be true and the really frightening thing is…. It’s a very short list. I don’t know much at all. But I know that in the house where I grew up things are the same as when I left and they always will be.
And I know that I have to go home.”
Home is the backyard in the house her family has lived in for 30 years. Waiting for and surprised by her arrival are her dad Bob (Bill Geisslinger) ), mom Fran (Jordan Baker), sister Pip (Kelley Faulkner) and two brothers Mark (Kevin Kantor)and Ben (Zach Fifer).
Each member of the family is a distinct individual, but all are bound by a desire to love and be loved.
Fran is overbearing and unafraid of conflict and especially demanding of her oldest daughter. Bob is the understanding parent, welcoming peace and satisfaction.
Each child brings a different trouble into that backyard over the course of a year.
It starts with Pip, wife and mother, who is about to leave her husband. She denies there’s another man, but Fran knows better. Pip has respect and affection for Steve, but she isn’t in love with him. That makes no difference to Fran, who is calls her daughter “a fucking princess.”
The life tremors for the girls pass, to be replaced by a backyard visit from Mark who arrives in the middle of a gloomy hurricane of emotional conflict. He’s here to break the news to his parents, the news that after years of sorrow he has decided to become a woman.
Parental reaction is, as you might expect, one of shock and wonder, a search inside for the answer to how in the world this could happen. Of course, answers are hard to find, buried deep inside the historical dynamics of the Price family.
Finally there is a visit from Ben, the youngest brother who lives a fancy life in direct comparison with and disapproval of Bob, a reluctantly retired auto worker.
Ben arriving torn apart, confesses to stealing $200,000 at work and frightened that investigators are closing in. Fran wants to help but Bob is adamant about his boy paying for what he’s done. He is beside himself with disgust at Ben.
“You know the difference between right and wrong. You couldn’t have grown up in this house without knowing that.”
Mr. Clements, the Artistic Director at The Rep, has carved an enviable reputation for staging and directing big shows, musicals. This is a little show and he proves that he is a marvelously patient director. He gives his actors space and time that allows them to create fully realized people, each suffering personal devils.
He has also turned to Chicago choreographer Julia Rhoads to create gorgeous moments when the actors move in a kind of free flowing Kabuki dance, five moving behind one speaking. It’s a moving and glorious touch that solidifies the constant backbone of this story.
Mr. Clements demands a lot of his actors and this cast is clearly up to the task. The acting is remarkable, from start to finish. A special word must be us4ed for Ms. Faulkner.
I’ve seen her any number of times and never have I seen her grab hold of a role with such vigor and deliver such a nuanced performance. She sets a high bar, one reached and matched by all of her castmates.
“Things” is a play that is full of humor, providing necessary breathing moments from the intensity of the ongoing drama of family life. It combines to take ordinary lives to extraordinary height.
Production Credits: Director, Mark Clements, Stage Movement Director, Julia Rhoads; Scenic Designer, Scott Davis; Costume Designer, Rachel Laritz; Lighting Designer, Jesse Klug; Original Music and Sound Designer, Joe Cerqua; Voice and Text Coach, Eva Breneman; Dramaturg, Brent Hazelton; Casting Director Frank Honts; Stage Manager, Rebekah, Heusel; Production Photographer, Michael Brosilow.