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“Alabaster” shines in World Premiere at Know Theatre

Review by Christiana Molldrem Harkulich of “Alabaster”: Know Theatre

A goat walks across stage and she is “aware that she is a goat,” but “Alabaster”, by Audrey Cefaly at the Know Theatre of Cincinnati, is not just a play about goats. Part of the rolling world premiere from the National New Play Network, this production is an intimate look at the fight to be seen between two survivors of trauma on a farm in Alabaster, Alabama. By turns laugh-out-loud funny and emotionally raw, “Alabaster” is not to be missed.

The aforementioned goat, Wheezy (played with comic precision and pathos by Keisha L. Kemper) is our narrator on this journey of connection. Wheezy introduces us to June, the artist shut-in owner of the farm (played by Maggie Lou Rader). As the play begins June is getting her portrait taken by Alice (played by Kelly Mengelkoch), a fancy-New York City based art photographer working on a series of portraits of women with scars. Over the tight two hours and two acts, Rader and Mengelkoch share tension and heart as they reveal the traumas and desires of June and Alice. Wheezy isn’t the only goat on the farm; she has companionship from her dying mother Bib (played wonderfully in her Know premiere by Jodie Beth Linver). To say more of the plot is to give the play away.

Cefaly’s play about grief and connection is directed with a swift and knowing hand by Lisa Sanaye Dring. The flow of moments from anger, to goat braying hilarity, to passion, to overwhelming grief are truthful and honest. Andrew Hungerford’s set is gorgeous and evokes the importance of place for June. Jennifer Fok’s lighting and Doug Borntrager’s sound designs work together to make the journey into the storm that is June’s grief real and startling. There is some use of strobe in the play. Noelle Wedig-Johnson’s costumes give the play a grounded feel, it’s refreshing to see a character who is bare-faced and is still seen as beautiful and desirable.

Wheezy, the wise goat, tells the audience during “Alabaster” that “it’s not not Love to walk away.” In a play about the fight to connect, this wisdom about walking away from the loved people and places we grieve is a startling reminder of how we heal. “Alabaster” is a magnificent production, and a wonderful evening of theatre.

“Alabaster” runs at Know Theatre of Cincinnati through March 21st. Tickets are available here:https://knowtheatre.com/season-22/alabaster/. Don’t miss your opportunity to see this play!