Know Theatre once again proves it is the playground for theatre in Cincinnati, producing the new work SuperTrue by Karen Hartman. It is both a loving paean and a mournful dirge of getting older and not achieving your goals. It is uneven, but has moments of such clear understanding of 21st century struggles, that it will stay with you.
You will be moved by the puppetry, with the simplicity and tenderness of both Erika Kate MacDonald’s design and Elizabeth Chinn Malloy’s interpretation. Reminiscent of Indonesian shadow puppets and Julie Taymor’s work, the bare essentials are used to successfully manipulate an audience’s feelings.
Martin (James Creque), a 40-something computer programmer is birthing his own new app, while bitterly working an hourly wage for a young “frat boss.” Martin has some great dry lines: “What’s the difference between Amazon and the mob? Scale. What’s the difference between a realist and a crank? Time.” His wife Janelle (Nicole Jeannine Smith) struggles with her infertility, his absence, and the ghost of a prior crisis– “for a healthy white person who went to college, you’ve been dealt a lot of Job-like sh*t,” Martin acknowledges. They’ve come to a rustic cabin in the Catskill Mountains to escape the stress of the city and roofing issues on their house. Janelle both welcomes and detests the cabin life, fending off a persistent deer, (or has it always been a local child? We do not know.) We see Janelle as unhinged, wanting to nurture, but not able to let go of fear, paranoia, and pain.
The language of the play is staccato and modern. There are multiple threads woven with mixed success through the story, but one consistent one is “love outside your tribe.” Director Holly L. Derr guides the performers, but perhaps due to an emergency actor replacement (the role of Martin is being shared with Derek Snow, and Creque came to replace him only last week), the rhythm and pace seemed off, especially in the beginning; but you will be mesmerized by the end.
The scenery is an imaginative, simple interpretation of a cabin in the woods, with green t-shirts on clotheslines representing the trees. Doug Borntrager creates a lovely soundscape, subtly reminding us we are in the woods, and Andrew Hungerford’s lighting reminds us we are in the computer age.
The show is 80-minutes, no intermission, and runs through February 10. For tickets go to www.knowtheatre.com or call 513-300-5669.