Jokes, Drama, Insight: Know Theatre’s “The Twunny Fo’” Has It All
Review by Nathan Top
What do we owe our communities? What do we owe ourselves? In the Know Theatre’s production of “The Twunny Fo’,” these two questions haunt the quartet of vibrant characters and explore a place we thought we were all familiar with: A convenience store.
“The Twunny Fo’” centers on Tyra, a driven late twenty-something trying to finish her MBA while working at The 24, a mini mart open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Working alongside Tyra are Rissa, Tyra’s spunky friend, and Shaw, a horny young dude who finds himself magnetically (and sexually) pulled to Tyra. Also frequenting the mini mart is Shaw, the former owner of the store who can’t seem to leave the business or workers alone.
Starring and written by Cincinnati-based playwright A.J. Baldwin, “The Twunny Fo’” is bright and vibrant. Packed with snappy banter and welcome wisdom, Baldwin’s dialogue leaps off the page, exploring themes of race, gender inequality, community, privilege, and class. The first act is quippy and fun, gradually building to a moment just before the intermission where the story becomes truly harrowing for our characters and even more gripping for the audience. Although the story lands in a happy, almost sitcom-like ending, the true revelations of the show are the characters and their interactions, floating between subtle Annie Baker-like moments of subtext and Dominique Morriseau-esque moments of power and clarity.
Director Candice Hardy takes Baldwin’s script and creates some beautiful moments and memorable stage pictures. Scenic and lighting designer Andrew Hungerford captures the juxtaposing harshness and hominess needed for the convenience store, complete with snacks and drinks and just feeling like a 7/11 or AMPM. Costume designer Noelle Wedig-Johnston has created well-fitting and appropriately degrading store employee outfits and sound designer Douglas Borntrager handles the tech obstacles of phone calls and text alerts seamlessly. I had to check to make sure my phone was actually off after hearing one of the sound cues from the stage.
The cast couldn’t be better for this loquacious script. A.J. Baldwin wins the audience over as the idealistic and occasionally naive Tyra. Eli Lucas has great chemistry with Baldwin’s Tyra and, surprisingly, has some impressive twerking abilities. James Creque as Kingsley is commanding whenever he enters the gameplay on stage and handles some of the more challenging show beats with nuance. Jasimine Bouldin is hilarious as Rissa, delivering some of the show’s funniest lines with rapid comedic timing. The whole ensemble makes the script absolutely glow.
If you are looking for a show that is funny, compelling, and ultimately hopeful, check out “The Twunny Fo’” at the Know Theatre, running now through May 8th. Tickets can be purchased here.
Nathan Top is a Cincinnati-based playwright and musician. Nathan works as a freelance trumpeter and pianist, performing in big bands, pit orchestras, and pop groups throughout the area.