Photo credit: Lizzy McCabe
Written by Patrick Chavis
The World Premiere of As We Know Them from playwright Matthew Katterhagen and directed by Matthew M. Hayashi.
As We Know Them is a quiet and introspective piece. It is a sweet, quirky play about a relationship between a mother and child. Kristin McDaniel plays the mother, Agnes Oyo, and Alison Kamishiro Parsons plays Jordan Oyo, the child.
Convinced the world is ending, Agnes sets out on the road to film a documentary to record life before the inevitable apocalypse. Worried about their mother’s safety and, to be honest, sanity. Jordan tries to track their mother down through the clues and hints their mother leaves behind. Will Jordan ever find their mother? Is Agnes correct about the apocalypse? This and more in As We Know Them.
This play felt like an indie film but from the early 2000s — all the way down to the mellow pacing and eccentric happenings. It even has an intriguing protagonist at war with their parent. While a completely different story and premise, it’s hard to deny I see similarities between this play and the hit indie film Garden State, which came out in 2004.
Jordan’s quest to find their mother provides the storytelling structure. As an audience, we experience their journey to see their mother, their encounters with new people, and the stories we learn about along the way. In Garden State, Zach Braff’s character tries to track down a pendant. That’s a big part of what’s happening in As We Know Them. We are introduced to some pretty colorful characters on Jordan’s journey, and Jordan’s pendant is their mother.
The play is quiet and very relaxed. The pacing feels genuine. The play stays consistent — possibly too consistent because something to shake up the story could have worked wonders. It’s a play of mostly sadness, anger, and melancholy. Some of the more minor roles felt distant, as they should. However, I could say the same about the two leads.
Some of the best parts can be found in the conversations between Jordan and Lou (Will Thomas), a worker at a restaurant who muses about his connection with people through video games, and Jordan’s time walking in the snow with Herin (Miguel Angel Tapia II) as he opens up about his past and present.
Part of Jordan’s appeal is the mystery of their character and their relationship and connection with their mother. Even more story development showing their life apart from the quest would have done wonders for this character’s arc.
The set design by Tony Sanchez utilizes the entire space. Two walls are placed in front of the audience to obsure our view. On both walls are paintings with similar artwork –streaks of white clouds look like they were hand-painted onto the wall. Surprisingly, one of the paintings acts as a table in certain scenes.
There is a message in this play shown through travel and the great things left behind. It highlights the smaller things people sometimes take for granted, which is a worthy thing to highlight. While present, the show’s use of magical realism missed an opportunity to bring these stories into the light.
Since the performances are so spaced out in this show, it’s not an ensemble piece. A lot rests on the performance between Alison Kamishiro Parsons and Kristin McDaniel. The distant relationship between these two characters is strongly communicated in this piece, and Kristin McDaniels’s detached acting translated incredibly well on stage.
So much so that you can completely understand Jordan’s feelings without much dialogue.
With a somewhat limited palette to pull from with this character in this very specific situation, Parson shines in much of this slow burner that never really boils over.
The World Premiere staging of As We Know Them leaves you with thoughts about truth, family, and what’s essential in life.
Story7.7Acting8Set & Design7.9Costumes7.6Entertainment7.4
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