By Mary Boyle
What would it be like if you could tell your family's story as a play? Not the story you want to tell people, mind you, but the real story — the things that only the people in your family really see. The arguments and painful words you can't take back; the secrets that only your family really knows. This brutal reality is what you see in acclaimed Australian playwright Andrew Bovell's Things I Know To Be True, which makes its American Premiere at The Milwaukee Rep this season.
Directed by Mark Clements, The Rep's Artistic Director, Things I Know To Be True is one year in the life of the Price Family: Bob (Bill Geisslinger) and Fran (Jordan Baker) and their four adult children, Pip (Kelley Faulkner), Mark (Kevin Kantor), Ben (Zach Fifer), and Rosie (Aubyn Heglie). Rosie is on the traditional post-school European Tour and, when things go wrong, the first thought she has is that she needs to go home. She surprises her parents, who know immediately that something is amiss and proceed call her older siblings to come over, which they do. They appear to be a very close-knit and typical Midwestern family in their middle class backyard, and they are: they are also broken, dysfunctional, and struggling to figure out their place in their family and in the world.
While the description may seem unremarkable, the play is quite remarkable in it's brutal reality, which the playwright does not shy away from, and which every audience member will recognize, in at least some aspect, from their own families. Each member of the Price clan suffers a personal crisis, in turn, and the way they handle it, and the way the rest of their family handles it, is influenced by their relationship with their family. The course of the play runs much like life: from sweet and tender to harsh and raging, and everything in between, with a dance-like quality to it; cast members flowing in and around scenes in a way that beautifully represents the push, pull, give, and take of being a part of a family.
This is a play quite unlike anything else I've seen at The Rep, which is thanks to the A John (Jack) D. Lewis New Play Development Program, that helped playwright Andrew Bovell make the journey to Milwaukee and adjust the play from its original Australian setting to a Midwestern one. Kelly Faulkner, a Milwaukee Rep favorite who was seen last season in Always... Patsy Cline and Guys and Dolls, is usually found playing more upbeat roles that involve music and dancing, but proves that she's just as adept in a dramatic role. Every other cast member is new to The Rep, though their chemistry as a group would suggest otherwise. Bill Geisslinger as Bob and Jordan Baker as Fran deliver particularly stunning, heart-wrenching performances.
Excellently cast and passionately and beautifully performed, Things I Know To Be True is powerful, emotional, raw, and so terribly beautiful. This is a play that will be with you for a long time.
Things I Know To Be True runs through March 31st at the Quadracci Theater, located located within the Patty & Jay Baker Theater Complex at 108 E. Wells St. in Milwaukee. Tickets can be purchased by calling (414) 224-9490, in-person at the Box Office, or online at www.MilwaukeeRep.com.
About Milwaukee Repertory Theater
The Milwaukee Rep is the largest performing arts organization in Wisconsin, in terms of audiences served, and one of the largest professional theaters in the country. Each year, The Rep welcomes up to 275,000 people at nearly 700 performances of 15 productions, ranging from compelling dramas, powerful classics, new plays, and full-scale musicals in its three unique performance venues: the Quadracci Powerhouse, Stiemke Studio, and Stackner Cabaret. Now in its 65th Season, The Rep has gained a national reputation as an incubator of new work, an agent of community change, and a forward-thinking provider of .vital arts education programs. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Mark Clements and Executive Director Chad Bauman, Milwaukee Repertory Theater ignites positive change in the cultural, social, and economic vitality of its community by creating world-class theater experiences that entertain, provoke, and inspire meaningful dialogue among an audience representative of Milwaukee's rich diversity.