Gidion's Knot

Written by Johnna Adams; Directed by Austin Pendleton

Off Off Broadway, New Play
Runs through 3.9.14
59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street


by Geri Silver on 2.28.14

L-R: Karen Leiner and Dara O'Brien in GIDION'S KNOT at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Carol RoseggKaren Leiner and Dara O'Brien in Gidion's Knot. Photo by Carol Rosegg.


BOTTOM LINE: A heavy but compelling two-person play about the guilt and aftermath following a young student's death.

In Gidion’s Knot, a new play by Johnna Adams, most of the action has already taken place by the time the play begins. In the wake of a tragedy -- the recent death of a fifth grade student -- Ms. Heather Clark (Dara O’Brien) is shocked to see the dead boy’s mother in her classroom, promptly on time for the parent-teacher conference that had been scheduled before his death. Corryn (Karen Leiner) has come to seek answers about the unclear circumstances surrounding Gidion’s tragic death, and to meet the woman who punished her son with a five-day suspension less than 24 hours before his final moments. What had he done to deserve such a serious consequence? Why was he beat up and bleeding after his last day at school? Corryn wants to put together the pieces, and Heather is forced to confront the uncomfortable truths about Gidion’s last days.

The two-person play, directed by Austin Pendleton in an intimate space at 59E59 Theaters, allows the audience to tread the murky waters of moral ambiguity following an incident that leaves many more questions than answers. Heather and Corryn spend the majority of the play waiting for the school principal, who has taken a “personal day” in response to the boy’s death, to supervise and mediate the meeting, but Corryn pushes forward in her absence, determined to hear an explanation directly from Heather, who she blames for letting this happen. Little by little, the details surrounding the previous week -- Gideon’s disturbing behavior at school and his complicated relationship with another boy -- are slowly and painfully revealed, and the audience gets an intimate look at the morals and contradictions in both characters along the way.

The compelling concept is not unlike John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt or David Mamet’s Oleanna, but is undoubtedly grimmer; the circumstances of a child’s death leave an air of unavoidable melancholy throughout the 85-minute piece. O’Brien and Leiner are impressive in heavily demanding roles, and Pendleton’s fluid direction makes great and dynamic use of the small space. The play would benefit from picking up a faster pace -- the forlorn tone and frequent and extended dramatic pauses often let the air out of what should be an extremely tense situation. There are moments in the script that don’t always work, and moments that could be stronger with bolder acting choices. However, though clearly not without its faults, Gidion’s Knot is well-executed in presenting a difficult and complicated conflict and successfully grips its audience with a compelling story.

(Gidion's Knot plays at 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street, through March 9th, 2014. Performances are Tuesdays through Thursdays at 7:30PM; Fridays and Saturdays at 8:30PM; and Sundays at 3:30PM. Tickets are $18 and are available at or by calling 212-279-4200)