BWW Review: THE ARSONISTS at KNOW THEATRE OF CINCINNATI PACKS A STRONG PUNCH
Be ready for a challenging theater experience.
Know Theatre of Cincinnati presents a rolling world premiere, THE ARSONISTS, by Jacqueline Goldfinger, October 20 - November 4, 2017 in season 20 entitled Love is Love.
In eighty uninterrupted minutes, the play is edgy and thought-provoking, traits of Know's productions. Jim Stark, professor of theatre at Hanover College in Indiana and an Equity actor, plays H joined by Erin Ward as M, a member of OTRimprov and Serials! They deliver excellent performances. The two actors are on stage the entire time in an emotional interplay of a father and daughter relationship in a tale of grief, loss and redemption based loosely on the Greek tragedy of Electra. Stark has appeared on stages across the United States and makes his initial and strong appearance in Cincinnati.
Set deep in Tate's Hell, a Florida swamp, THE ARSONISTS is a contemporary myth that explores the relationship between parent and child. The play is a runner-up for the 2016 Leah Ryan Price prize and nominated for the Blackburn Prize and Weissberger Award. It is the final play in Goldfinger's Southern Gothic trilology.
M loses her father in an arson gone wrong. She goes on a journey with his ghost to reclaim her life and reframe her memory. The dialog between H and M is intense and often filled with conflict. The theatergoer needs to listen carefully to catch all the nuances of the father-daughter relationship. It is complex and not surprisingly emotional. Both Stark and Ward capture their struggles well. Be ready to listen to heart-wrenching conversations. This is not a play for the faint of heart.
National New Play Network's flagship initiative supports three or more theaters that choose to mount the same new play within a 12-month period as well as develop, produce and oversee continued life of new plays. Know is a member of NNPN. The production of THE ARSONISTS is Know's third rolling world premiere, and the 67th rolling world premiere for NNPN. Partnering members also include Azuka Theatre in Philadelphia, Perseverance Theatre in Anchorage/Juneau, Arkansas and Capital Stage in Sacramento, California. THE ARSONISTS opened May 3 in Philadelphia.
Created by Andrew J. Hungerford, producing artistic director as well as resident scenic and lighting designer, the set is basic. Untreated wood forms the bare floor and surrounding walls. Perhaps his intent was to keep it simple. As a backdrop, H & M create a white, string curtain at the front of the stage. Guitars hang on either side of the dwelling. Both actors use them to accompany their singing and play with enthusiasm. Their duos are particularly effective.
Music consists of seventeen traditional folk songs, arranged by the actors, that capture the eerie beauty of swampy mysteriousness. Integral to the play, the songs include such favorites as "I Am A Poor Wayfaring Stranger" and "You Are My Sunshine." At the end of the play, H has a heart attack. Upset, M sings "Nearer My God to Thee."
Goldfinger is an accomplished playwright. She graduated with an MFA from the University of Southern California in 2004. She is currently the playwright-in-residence at Azuka Theatre in Philadelphia. She teaches playwriting and dramaturgy at the University of Pennsylvania. Her work has been produced at The Kennedy Center, LaMaMa, and Seattle Public.
The Know began in 1997 with artists traveling to various venues. By 2006, the theater moved to 1120 Jackson St.
THE ARSONISTS runs from September 22 to October 14. Rated PG-13, the play has tickets available for $25 for shows Thursday through Sunday. (513) 300-5669
Picture by: Daniel R. Winters
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