Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap at Know Theatre’s “D*ckless”
Review by Alan Jozwiak
“You got problems in your life of love
You got a broken heart
He’s double dealin’ with your best friend
That’s when the teardrops start, fella”
These lines from the classic AC/DC heavy metal song perfectly describe the central problem of “Dickless,” the latest play offered by Know Theatre of Cincinnati. “Dickless” tells the story of Saff (Tess Talbot) who gets involved with a friend’s revenge plot against the friend’s two-timing boyfriend, only to end up in a series of adventures which lead to tragic consequences.
Told largely in extended monologues, “Dickless” is set in the fictional British town of Dunningham, where the dispossessed young people have nothing more to look forward to in life than a pint at the pub and a quick lay.
While the subject matter for this play is really not up my alley, I was drawn to this show by the tour de force performances of its actors. Tess Talbot plays the image-obsessed Saff and one of her recent conquests, Oli. Talbot is mesmerizing playing both roles and shows great stamina and endurance, since these roles take up two-thirds of the 90-minute run time of the show. Each of her monologues is a nuanced study of the character being portrayed. Talbot proves that she is on par with the best actors in this city in producing work that is compelling and incredibly powerful.
Jared Earland who plays Smith Henry, the man on the receiving end of Saff’s vengeance, is also a standout. Earland fleshes out a seemingly everyday salt-of-the-earth young man into a study of hapless desperation. Like Talbot, Earland mines the humor contained within the piece and is able to lighten a dark scene with wry commentary. He also is able to show the most humanity in this piece towards the young woman Titch (Sydni Charity Solomon).
Solomon’s performance as Titch is equally strong. Solomon is able to capitalize on the short time she’s onstage by being a firecracker–loud and brassy. She is a junior CCM Acting student, so hopefully Cincinnati audiences will get a chance to see her again at Know before she graduates.
Praise also needs to be given to director Brant Russell. Russell keeps things moving on stage–literally–by having actors moving around the set in ways that break up the static nature of monologues. He hit the right balance between monologue and action that felt natural and believable.
Scenic designer and Know Theatre ‘s producing artistic director Andrew J. Hungerford crafted a set that compliments this play. The set looks like the dark back alley of a pub with an overflowing trash container. Added to this is the expressionistic leaning walls and you have a perfect gritty urban setting.
“Dickless” was written by Aisha Josiah, who lived in Britain as a teenager and studied at the Tisch School of the Arts in NYC. An earlier version of “Dickless” appeared in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, so the Fringe sensibility of the piece works fits the aesthetic of Know Theatre. Josiah has a strong voice and has something to say with, so I hope Know is able to showcase her work in the future.
In closing, “Dickless” is a strong evening of theatre for people who want to see amazing acting and a strong script. My only caveat with this play is that with the script being set in Britain, the play uses British slang that can be confusing to American ears. I hit a few of those spots and got around them by focusing on the situation to piece things together.
“Dickless” runs January 27 to February 12, 2023, with performances running Wednesdays through Sunday matinees. For ticket information go to knowtheatre.com
PHOTOS: Know Theatre presents DICKLESS by Aisha Josiah – (Left) Tess Talbot (Right) Syndi Charity Solomon and Jared Earland