AISLE SAY San Francisco


by Johnna Adams
Presented by Aurora Theatre Company
Directed by Jon Tracy
Aurora Theatre
2081 Addison St., Berkeley, CA / (510) 843-4822

Reviewed by Judy Richter

After a fifth-grade boy is suspended for unspecified reasons, his mother reports to his school, as requested, for a parent-teacher conference.

Thus the stage is set for a confrontation of roller coaster emotions in Johnna Adams' "Gidion's Knot" at Aurora Theatre Company in Berkeley.

As the audience enters for this two-woman, one-act play, the teacher, Heather Clark (Stacy Ross), looking somewhat harried, is alone, grading papers at her desk. She's interrupted by the arrival of the mother, Corryn Fell (Jamie J. Jones).

It soon becomes apparent that Corryn, who's a single mom, is quite angry and that Heather is reluctant to engage her or to tell her why the boy, Gidion, was suspended. Heather wants to wait for the principal to arrive, but Corryn soon discerns that the principal has no intention of showing up.

Not only is she angry, Corryn is sarcastic and demeaning toward Heather, who began teaching only two years ago after working in advertising. For her part, Corryn teaches literature at the graduate level at Northwestern University.

But there are reasons, including maternal love and bewilderment, behind Corryn's anger this afternoon. Others become clearer as more information is revealed by the characters.

This wrenching play explores issues like cyber bullying, young sexuality, parenting, educational practices and even taste in literature.

As directed by Jon Tracy, the two actors mine the script for all of its nuances and surprises while investing its many pauses with meaning.

Nina Ball's classroom set comes complete with desks, chairs, wall charts and fluorescent lights (lighting by Michael Palumbo). The costumes are by Antonia Gunnarson with sound by Cliff Caruthers.

Running 90 minutes -- the clock on the wall moves from 2:45 to 3:15 p.m. -- this play is packed with emotional power and food for thought combined with the pleasure of seeing two skilled actors at work.

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