Review by Erica Minton of Andy’s House of [Blank]: Know Theatre
If you boxed up Know Theatreâ€™s newest production, Andyâ€™s House of [Blank], it would fit right in on the shelves at Andyâ€™s oddities shop, perhaps tucked between Francis Baconâ€™s skillet and a Saturn fly trap. The show, which began in the sandbox of Knowâ€™s Serials in the form of 15-minute serialized performances, has been fleshed out, developed, and packed full of additional music, jokes and backstory, and is enjoying a Mainstage run at the theater.
I was not able to attend the Serials performances myself, and so the story of Andyâ€™s House of [Blank] was new to me. Parts felt familiar, as they might to any audience members who have followed Paul Stricklandâ€™s and Trey Tatumâ€™s Fringe Festival performances. To be clear, it is not that material has been recycled; simply that Strickland and Tatum have wholly original styles and each of their fingerprints cover the show.
The basic premise reads like a take on Groundhog Day (if you lived one single day over and over again, would you ever get it right?), but Andyâ€™s House was not the laugh-a-minute farce I was expecting. When itâ€™s funny, it is very funny, full of original wit, great physicality, and spot-on comedic timing. But there is a larger story at play in Andyâ€™s House, one that returns time and again to â€œvariationsâ€ on themes of loss, regret, memory, and being caught in oneâ€™s own personal loop. Each character, even the clown-like â€œTreyâ€ and â€œPaul,â€ seems hauntedâ€”Tatum even starts the show by referring to it as â€œtoo big for a ghost story, not quite a sÃ©ance.â€
The show is an ambitious one and struggles to get through everything it wants to accomplish in two hours: four charactersâ€™ full histories, a â€œscience non-fictionâ€ story, and so many songs the play verges on becoming an opera. Every word, every sentence, every lyric is important to the story in Andyâ€™s House, which does not leave the audience with much time to digestâ€”but the frantic pace keeps the show feeling immediate.
I felt the performances were wonderfully balanced. Our hero Andy (Christopher Michael Richardson) is a calm and steady presence around which the showâ€™s mania can swirl. He is also an incredible vocalist, another way he proves a strong anchor in the show. Erika Kate MacDonaldâ€™s Sadie refuses to be the one-note heroine who exists only to move the heroâ€™s plot forward. Stricklandâ€™s â€œPaulâ€ and Tatumâ€™s â€œTreyâ€ provide most of the comedy, and frankly more than their share of the chemistryâ€”at times it is like watching brothers on stage. And though the cast and characters are disparate, my favorite moments of the show were small interludes of harmony: Richardson, MacDonald and Strickland singing in unison, with Tatumâ€™s keyboard providing the fourth voice. These pockets of musical magic are what will most drive me to see the show for a second time.
In my â€œsneak peekâ€ interview with Paul Strickland, he suggested that Andyâ€™s House was â€œa piece that I certainly have never seen before.â€ The show is a curiosity all its ownâ€”a philosophical comedy, or a hilarious tragedy, or a witty and fantastical folk opera. It is, in the showâ€™s words, â€œa dependable kind of crazy,â€ and I think audiences will love the showâ€™s voice. Andyâ€™s House of [Blank] is a credit to the Know Theatre, which continues not only to give local artists the resources to develop innovative new work, but provides a platform to share it with Cincinnatiâ€™s audiences.