Chicago Theater Review: GIDION’S KNOT (Profiles)

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by Lawrence Bommer on January 26, 2014

in Theater-Chicago


A tangle of shifting sympathies and treacherous turns, Johnna Adams’ spare 75-minute, two-hander one-act teeters on a knife edge during every burning second. Its setting and situation are simple: a previously scheduled parent-teacher conference in a 5th grade classroom in Lake Forest. Yet at heart it’s no such thing. Profiles Theatre’s Midwest premiere unleashes some desperate truth-telling, one kinetic impact after another. By play’s end we’re caught up in a collective crisis, paralyzed by decent characters who can’t find a way out.

GIDION'S KNOT at Profiles Theatre in Chicago.

Corryn (Amy J. Carle), a literature professor at Northwestern University and the mother of Gidion, is furious that the supposedly cowardly principal has not shown up for this unusual occasion. It’s already April 5, 2014 when Corryn arrives in a history classroom gaily decorated with the students’ mythological projects and prize essays. Dressed in unbecoming black, she wants answers about her 11-year-old son’s sudden suicide.

Defensive from the start, Heather (Laura Hooper) is Gidion’s teacher, a single woman with no children who is astonished that the mother kept the appointment, considering what has just happened. Worse, Heather expects no mercy from the woman whose son she suspended.

GIDION'S KNOT at Profiles Theatre.

What follows is a series of shocks and surprises as the women thrust and parry for facts that still can’t explain the tragedy. Gidion wrote an essay about a mass slaughter at the school where dismembered entrails are woven into ritual offerings. Is this the work of an original mind and a future Marquis de Sade? Or was he a budding sociopath worthy of zero tolerance and professional help? Was Gidion censored or just diagnosed? Why was he called a “lying faggot?” What about the classmate named Jake who was Gidion’s crush and who he imagined had raped a first grader? This Gordian knot is not as easily dispatched as was Alexander the Great’s challenge.

Corryn, whose reactions to Heather’s unstated accusations discharge a ton of retroactive suspicion, doesn’t for a moment believe that children are intrinsically innocent. (God of Carnage, anyone?) Heather just looks pole-axed by Gidion’s not-so-telling death. She faces her own impending loss, the unavoidable euthanasia of her beloved 15-year-old cat. This imminent pain is on the same continuum as Corryn’s loss, as the mother is strong enough to see. Taking responsibility rather than spreading blame seems the only path that doesn’t lead to more misery.

GIDION'S KNOT at Profiles Theatre

Nothing comes easily here. How could it? It’s hard enough for the instant and terrible legacy of an unfinished life to be acknowledged, let alone explained, in the course of an hour or more of toxic testimony. Some may find the show either half-baked or overcooked, but fortunately what Gidion’s Knot leaves out is suggestive enough for the audience to fill in.

Director Joe Jahraus brings the clashing conversations to a slow boil, the tension hanging in the air like a curse. Carle’s dogged Corryn is rigid with rage, instinctively cowing Hooper’s stunned and shrinking Heather. Seldom have the eyes had it as here, the women making cold contact or avoiding it to stop a future fight. Like any good drama, the unresolved issues here remind us that the untying of knots is a continual fact of life.

GIDION'S KNOT at Profiles Theatre in Chicago

photos by Michael Brosilow

Gidion’s Knot
Profiles Theatre
The Alley Stage, 4147 N. Broadway
scheduled to end on March 9, 2014
for tickets, call (773) 549-1815 or visit

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