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Theatrical Serials? Know Theatre Jumps Into Episodic Programming for the Stage

Here’s something completely different for summer-in-the-city on stage.
Know Theatre in Over-the-Rhine is showcasing new plays by local playwrights in serial form – 15-minute episodes of six plays, every other Monday night, through Sept. 8.
The series began on June 23 to a packed house in the just-below street level lobby/bar. The next Serial evening is Monday, July 7 starting at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 and the box office is split with the artists. 
The set-up is fun – cabaret tables, low couches, very cozy. Kind of ‘living room theater.’ What you’ll see is all over the map – well, no musicals.
It’s very Fringe. Incoming producing artistic director Andrew Hungerford put out the call for new plays, starting with writers who have a relationship with Know. Hungerford also announced Know will be experimenting with free Wednesday evening performances during the season, more to come on that.
The debut was a mixed bag, but what were you expecting? And there’s something new every 15 minutes.
Here’s where things started (but I can’t even guess where things will go from there):
Chris Wesselman’s “Flesh Descending” is set somewhere in Appalachia in 1876. How is it that not-so-tenderized mystery meat is falling from the sky? Featuring a mean wife worthy of a TV reality series (played with evil gusto by Leah Strasser) and together again, 2012 Fringe hit “Don’t Cross the Stream” alums Sean Mette and Randy Lee Bailey. 
“Fetus and the God” by Ben Dudley starts back in 1987. God has a fake long grey beard, the fetus sports a sort-of umbilical cord. The fetus gets to ask five questions, but has trouble deciding. God using a pen name to write a comic strip about a fat cat. If it sounds forced – well, yeah.
On to noir satire “The Listener” by Michael Hall, set “on a day like any other day that’s like any other day.” There is wire-tapping, There is the NSA. There is at least one murderous spouse. There are yucks you haven’t heard since the glory days of the Borscht Belt.
The slickest of the entries comes immediately after intermission. “Saturday the 14th” by Elizabeth Martin sets up a rom-com, where a man and a woman have both had an unfortunate Valentine’s Day and have found their way to a bridge to commit suicide. Fortunately it’s Miranda McGee and Nik Pajic arguing about who gets to jump first. At the end of 15 minutes they’re still alive and planning moderate mayhem. 
Jon Kovach’s “The Funeral” is the one that had me most curious about what comes next. Kovach’s Fringe shows are hits and this first episode made me want to know what’s coming next. Kovach has a real gift for creating dimensional characters who seem like someone you could meet in the real world outside the theater. He stars as what seems to be a young slacker who absolutely does not want to go to an ancient relative’s funeral. You just know there’s something coming.
“Mars vs. The Atom” by Trey Tatum starts with a newsreel. It’s 1961 and a “dead” A-bomb has hit a U.S. town. Hmmmm. And that has nothing on the coming personal turmoil suggested for a peculiar collection of folks surrounding an agraphobic. Why do I think he hasn’t chosen a safe place?
-Jackie Demaline, RCN contributor
Photo via Know Theatre
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