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Theater Review: “Gidion’s Knot”

 Jyl Kaneshiro and Carla Nell.
Photo credit:
Adriana Zuniga-Williams

The audience enters room 418, where 5th grade teacher Heather Clark (Carla Nell) sits at her desk reading, shuffling papers and checking her cell phone.

It’s a colorful, cheery classroom, but Heather seems anything but cheery. At one point, she breaks down in tears.

Her school day almost over, she is not expecting to see parent Corynn Fell (Jyl Kaneshiro), who’s been summoned to a parent-teacher conference about her son Gidion, just suspended for reasons she hasn’t been told. Gidion shot himself to death last night after giving his mother the notice from the school, and Heather figured the meeting was moot.

But Corynn wants to know why he was suspended. Heather wants to avoid talking about the matter, but Corryn is both articulate and persistent. She will not be denied.

InnerMission Productions presents the San Diego premiere of Johnna Adams’ “Gidion’s Knot” through June 10 at Diversionary Theatre’s Black Box.

They circle each other. Heather talks around the issue, mentioning that the students are writing sympathy cards for Corryn, who asks Heather to collect and burn them, all except the one from Gidion’s girlfriend Seneca (of particular interest because Corryn teaches medieval literature at Northwestern).

Finally they get to the reason for the suspension: Gidion wrote and circulated an extremely violent story about torturing and killing teachers, naming names and describing in nauseating detail what he would like to do to them.

He also makes a scurrilous accusation about a classmate.

This meeting, which begins with both women at the slow burn stage and ramps up from there, will become a heady discussion about art, responsibility and what does (and doesn’t) damage children.

But underneath, there’s that nagging question about blame.

Both women are stranded without an emergency escape hatch – Heather’s attempts to involve the principal fail; single mom Corryn, also on her own, uses sarcasm as her weapon.

Gutsy little InnerMission Theatre routinely takes on challenges like the bumpy theatrical ride offered by this difficult two-hander.

Director Kym Pappas has two terrific actors in Carla Nell (co-artistic director of InnerMission) and Jyl Kaneshiro. While Nell’s Heather struggles for control (of herself as well as the situation), Kaneshiro’s Corryn desperately wants to blame Heather. Both are brilliant portrayals.

“Gidion’s Knot” is a tense 90 minutes, but worth every uncomfortable second.

The details

“Gidion’s Knot” plays through June 10, 2017 at Diversionary Black Box, 4545 Park Boulevard.

Thursday through Sunday at 7:30 pm