The Austin Chronicle


Reviewed by Stacy Alexander Evans, January 31, 2014, Arts

Gidion's Knot

Salvage Vanguard Theater, 2803 Manor Rd., 512-474-7886
Saturday, Feb. 1, noon; Sunday, Feb. 2, 8:15pm; Wednesday-Saturday, Feb. 5-8, 8pm
Running time: 1 hr., 30 min.

Two people, one room – it's as claustrophobic and prickly as David Mamet's Oleanna. When a fifth-grade boy's suicide note reads "I've gone to stand with the poets," you know it's going to be good, and you know it will break your heart. Far from a trite damnation of the barbs that wound our youth on the Internet these days, the message in Gidion's Knot is timeless: The life of a misunderstood artist is a special kind of hell.

As theatregoers, we file into a classroom decorated with garish cartoons of goggle-eyed space frogs and mohawked octopi-bats and wonder how reason could possibly prevail here. One poster on the teacher's desk seems particularly fitting: It is a two-headed monster, and above it the words "Be buddies." As we watch these two middle-aged women – one the dead boy's grieving mother and the other his beleaguered teacher – madly circling each other like hunters in the wild, we ponder the inanity of civility under these circumstances.

Here, in a place called Lake Forest School, which is probably nowhere near a life-affirming lake or spirit-lifting forest, a mother wrestles with the stranger she's trusted to raise her child in a "pit of the unenlightened." Both Emily Erington and Rebecca Robinson turn out top-notch performances here as the mother and teacher respectively. When we hear the jarring sound of a school bell, it's an unsettling reminder of the bells worn by livestock. Think the Marquis de Sade and a suburban 11-year-old have nothing in common? Think again.

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