Review “In a Word” (Strawdog Theatre): Collision of Fact and Fiction

Monday, February 22, 2016 Permalink 0

in-a-word-8255The Strawdog Theatre Company presents a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere of IN A WORD.

Playwright Lauren Yee’s new play is about ‘words.’  The ones we hear.  The ones we say. The ones we wish we heard.  The ones we wish we said. All these words get tangled in the emotional mishmash of memory.  The son of Fiona (played by Mary Winn Heider) and Guy (played by John Ferrick) vanished over two years ago.  His disappearance is a mystery to be solved.  Yee gives the play a lyrical spin. She uses words to blur the reality. Heider and Ferrick don’t just answer a question.  They often spew several different responses.  It’s up to the audience to puzzle together what really happened.

Director Jess McLeod skillfully layers plenty of emotion on top of Yee’s words. Heider spirals at an exhaustive pace. She starts the show listlessly rising from under a pile of blankets. Then, she comes to life as Ferrick attempts to coax her out of the house. The collision of fact and fiction is immediate. Heider starts describing encounters with the kidnapper, the detective and a cantaloupe. As Heider reenacts the moments in a state of crazed desperation, a resigned Ferrick calmly pokes holes in his wife’s conspiracy theories. Although Heider’s despair is genuine in the moment, we understand that Ferrick has had two years of these moments.

Ferrick provides the normalcy as he narrates how he observed his wife and son’s relationship. Ferrick balances out an overwrought Heider. At one point, we see Heider having the absolute worst day of her life. Her frustration and disgust is palpable. In a frenzied respite, she scarfs down a Kit-Kat. She clings to the wrapper like it’s a buoy in her vast sea of helplessness.

An outstanding Gabe Franken plays multiple parts.  He is the young son, a detective, the principal, a pool hall buddy.  Each of his characters are distinct.  During one sequence, he impressively goes back and forth from kid to man several times. His terrific meltdown on stage made me wince.  My maternal nature kicked in. I wanted to smack him.

The trio of talented actors do a great job with the story. Unfortunately, I didn’t really like this story’s ending.   Although I enjoy solving mysteries, I didn’t get satisfaction resolution in this one. Yee’s trail of word crumbs led me to a conclusion that seems implausible. Knowing some sh#tty details, I couldn’t quite buy her outcome. But then again, I might have focused on the wrong words.

Running Time: Eighty minutes with no intermission

At Strawdog Theatre, 3829 N. Broadway

Written by Lauren Yee

Directed by Jess McLeod

Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8pm

Sundays at 4pm

Thru March 19th

Buy Tickets at



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