Review by Erica Minton of Andy’s House of [Blank]: Know Theatre
If you boxed up Know Theatre’s newest production, Andy’s House of [Blank], it would fit right in on the shelves at Andy’s oddities shop, perhaps tucked between Francis Bacon’s skillet and a Saturn fly trap. The show, which began in the sandbox of Know’s Serials in the form of 15-minute serialized performances, has been fleshed out, developed, and packed full of additional music, jokes and backstory, and is enjoying a Mainstage run at the theater.
I was not able to attend the Serials performances myself, and so the story of Andy’s House of [Blank] was new to me. Parts felt familiar, as they might to any audience members who have followed Paul Strickland’s and Trey Tatum’s Fringe Festival performances. To be clear, it is not that material has been recycled; simply that Strickland and Tatum have wholly original styles and each of their fingerprints cover the show.
The basic premise reads like a take on Groundhog Day (if you lived one single day over and over again, would you ever get it right?), but Andy’s House was not the laugh-a-minute farce I was expecting. When it’s funny, it is very funny, full of original wit, great physicality, and spot-on comedic timing. But there is a larger story at play in Andy’s House, one that returns time and again to “variations” on themes of loss, regret, memory, and being caught in one’s own personal loop. Each character, even the clown-like “Trey” and “Paul,” seems haunted—Tatum even starts the show by referring to it as “too big for a ghost story, not quite a séance.”
The show is an ambitious one and struggles to get through everything it wants to accomplish in two hours: four characters’ full histories, a “science non-fiction” story, and so many songs the play verges on becoming an opera. Every word, every sentence, every lyric is important to the story in Andy’s House, which does not leave the audience with much time to digest—but the frantic pace keeps the show feeling immediate.
I felt the performances were wonderfully balanced. Our hero Andy (Christopher Michael Richardson) is a calm and steady presence around which the show’s mania can swirl. He is also an incredible vocalist, another way he proves a strong anchor in the show. Erika Kate MacDonald’s Sadie refuses to be the one-note heroine who exists only to move the hero’s plot forward. Strickland’s “Paul” and Tatum’s “Trey” provide most of the comedy, and frankly more than their share of the chemistry—at times it is like watching brothers on stage. And though the cast and characters are disparate, my favorite moments of the show were small interludes of harmony: Richardson, MacDonald and Strickland singing in unison, with Tatum’s keyboard providing the fourth voice. These pockets of musical magic are what will most drive me to see the show for a second time.
In my “sneak peek” interview with Paul Strickland, he suggested that Andy’s House was “a piece that I certainly have never seen before.” The show is a curiosity all its own—a philosophical comedy, or a hilarious tragedy, or a witty and fantastical folk opera. It is, in the show’s words, “a dependable kind of crazy,” and I think audiences will love the show’s voice. Andy’s House of [Blank] is a credit to the Know Theatre, which continues not only to give local artists the resources to develop innovative new work, but provides a platform to share it with Cincinnati’s audiences.