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The Know Theater Blasts Off to the Year 2088 with “The Absentee”

Review by John Woll of “The Absentee”: Know Theatre

The Know Theatre‘s newest production,”The Absentee”, by Julia Doolittle, begins its 2019-2020 season with a bang in a futuristic journey to outer space.

The time is 2088 and far out in the Milky Way in Dimension 9, a U.S. Space Force ship explodes and brings space travel to a standstill. We see Operator (Jordan Trovillion) aboard her spacecraft in Beacon 44.AR.90 on an isolated one woman space mission. She is assisted by her Artificial Intelligence Beacon (A.J. Baldwin) who will at times brilliantly take on the persona of the her ex-girlfriend, but is set to turn itself off to avoid too personal connection with it’ operator. Space force code prevents the Operator from revealing her full name and she is completely devoid of any human interaction other than the occasional brief command by her superior Lieutenant Zala (Hannah Jones). Deep space wifi-connection is poor and she gets no access to the news on earth.

That is, until she gets an unlikely phone call from a tenatious political campaign volunteer Glenn (Nathan Tubbs) who is eager to persuade her to vote via an intergalactic absentee ballot.

She has been in space alone since her girlfriend passed away from a new disease. In 6 months she will return to Earth, only to immediately return to space for 4 more missions. But as time goes on, thru her connection with a persistent campaigner over the phone, we learn of her past, her hopes, her desires and ultimately her fear for the future.

These actors are at the top of their game. Jordan plays the role of Operator with tremendous grit, tenacity, edge and heart.  Her storytelling and angst drove the show on an intergalactic journey of escape from grief with some excellent light and comedic moments. Her connection with Glenn is the perfect mix of wit and sass. It is a volley of topics that soon turn from political to personal.

Nathan Tubbs is exuberant, energetic and passionate in his insightful push of the presidential campaign of Senator Huerta. His Glenn is not stuck in one place the whole show, but full of movement, color and depth. His delivery was bright and upbeat in a warm and sincerely passionate performance.

A.I. Beacon adds brilliant nuance and power to her adaptive robotic persona. Move over Alexa and Siri because she will play you a song, teach you a dance class and re-enact an old episode of Bob Ross. A.J. Baldwin is a definite swipe right.


This scenic design is Amazing! Kudos to Andrew J. Hungerford for creating such a tight and surprising set. A great mix 60’s futurism with pops of somewhat dystopian technology. The video and sound effects designed by Doug Borntrager were captivating with a sense of humor. Noelle Wedig-Johnston’s costuming was perfectly futuristic and utilitarian. Under the direction of Kate Bergstrom everything just works!

In today’s political climate, current discussions tend to run in circles. “The Absentee” is an escape to a future that asks the questions of democratic engagement that we need to be thinking about in a brilliant story by Julia Doolittle full of futuristic human elements, self-discovery and an ending that will have you on the edge of your seat!

“The Absentee” runs thru October 5th at the Know Theatre of Cincinnati with a special National Voter Registration Day After Party on the 24th.

Don’t miss this riveting 80 min (no intermission) unique launch to another space and time!