“Things I Know to be True” – Arizona Theatre Company

Theater Review – May 19, 2019


Arizona Theatre Company, Center Stage, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ

Arizona Theatre Company’s superbly crafted American premiere production of Australian playwright Andrew Bovell’s “Things I Know to be True” is a challenge to watch.  The production is a blessing staged with fascinating patterns by director Mark Clements on Scott Davis’ marvelously designed expressionistic depiction of a family’s house that tells audiences a lot about the dysfunctional six person family audiences are about to meet.

But every character has weird hang-ups that dominate, control, and run their unusual existence.  Not one person in this family is normal.  These unusual attributes make family gatherings a masterpiece in trying to fit each person’s uniqueness together.  Of course, this environment makes each family meeting an intense, on-the-edge experience that leads to inevitable disagreements and verbal fights.  The play’s language is painful and imagine how this hurtful chatter impacts each character as it crafts the untenable environment.

The parents use the mother’s-in-charge mantra.  Bob, the father, kowtows to Fran, his wife, and he initially appears docile and ineffective until late in the play, when he takes charge much to Fran’s amazement.  The children have unusual needs prompted by conditions that allowed quirks to become guiding principles.

Pip has two daughters she is willing to give up when her “perfect” marriage falls apart.  Ben is a playboy who wants everything whether or not he can afford it because he’s entitled.  Brother Mia is gay and ultimately wants a physical sex change which throws the family.  Rosie wants an identity.  Fran and Bob provided their kids with everything causing spoiled brats who expect whatever they want without effort.  It’s quite a family but the playwright fleshes each character in alarming detail so you know every idiosyncratic and ridiculous need, desire, and attitude.  It is an intense discussion but much of each character becomes clear from the playwright’s detail early in the play.  The characters don’t grow or change much and it might have been a more interesting play if some unusual things happened to some of these predictable people.

The ensemble blends together with alacrity as they bring each of these unpleasant individuals to vibrant life.  Jordan Baker’s dogmatic tyrant Fran is a matriarch who spends every minute controlling her family until the end when Bill Geisslinger’s Bob finally takes charge after her years of control have let the family down.  Aubyn Heglie’s Rosie leads the audience through the family’s peculiarities.  Kelley Faulkner plays Pip as the proverbial rich kid who expects everything to go her shallow and meaningless way.  As the brothers, Zach Fifer has the more superficial role as Ben, the playboy who expects and gets everything he wants without effort or struggle.  Kevin Kantor is Mia, the brother unhappy in his body who justifies his escape to change his sexual orientation.

“Things I Know to be True” is a downer as this dysfunctional family struggles to keep it together after years of neglect.  “Things I Know to be True” continues through June 2.  For tickets, contact the Arizona Theatre Company box office at 602-256-6995 or order tickets online at www.arizonatheatre.org.

Grade: C