You have probably seen “All-One” soap in the supermarket.
They are pastel bottles of pure-Castile liquid soap whose labels are filled with sage quotes and teachings of the Moral ABCs.
The brand name is Dr. Bronner and the man behind the soap has a fascinating story to tell. This is the story that Know Theatre’s latest production acts out.
In All-One! The Doctor Bronner’s Play, playwright Beth Hyland explores the life of Doctor Bronner through a pageant format. When we think of the word pageant, it is usually in the context of a beauty pageant where contestants parade across the stage for fabulous gifts and prizes.
This play becomes a pageant because there is a procession of actors performing scenes out of Dr. Bronner’s life, expounding upon his All-One-God-Faith religion that led him to sell soap, as well as monologues and sketches acting out all the many uses for Dr. Bronner’s Magic Liquid Soap.
In keeping with the nature of a pageant, the entire cast was dressed in colorful pool side costumes. This is appropriate because there was a bright blue inflatable kiddie pool in the center of the stage where actors could play with water. Lighting and Scenic Designer Andrew J. Hungerford (also Know Theatre’s Producing Artistic Director) made a playground for the actors that was bright and inviting.
This piece was truly an ensemble effort and everyone contributed to the success of the show. The ensemble was made up of L. Lucía Duque, Ian Timothy Forsgren, Erin McCamley, Elizabeth Chinn Molloy, Willemien Patterson, and R. DeAndré Smith. It was great to see some returning faces, as well as some newcomers to the Know stage whom I hope will become regular faces.
The ensemble worked well together to tell the story of Dr. Bronner, thanks to the apt direction of Erika Kate MacDonald. A Know veteran who performed the strong solo show The Barn Identity in last year’s Cincinnati Fringe Festival, MacDonald keeps the air of the show light and entertaining, while also exploring some big issues by allowing her actors the space to showcase their strengths as performers.
The monologues in this piece were both revealing and moving. Ian Forsgren’s meditation on washing dishes as it connects to his mother’s death was moving, as was Erin McCamley’s confession about not shaving her legs and the reaction of others to that choice. I also laughed at R. DeAndré Smith’s antics about using Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap for toothpaste and mouthwash. He was delightful.
The Message of “All-One!”
I don’t want to reveal too much more concerning the proceedings of this play-pageant because Dr. Bronner’s life was truly remarkable. It has so many twists and turns that it sounds like someone made up the facts of his life. However, truth can be stranger than fiction and this play shows that while sometimes Dr. Bronner can be very wrong, he could also be very right.
This play is about soap, but so much more. It is about what we do to make ourselves clean and how far we can go to try to save the world through our beliefs. There are some big issues behind the light frolicsome nature of the play that can make you think as you laugh. This play may not be for everyone, but I think Dr. Bronner’s life and work is one that deserves attention and Know’s production of the play is worthy of that attention.
Tickets to “All-One!”
All-One! The Doctor Bronner’s Play runs March 10-26, 2023, with performances running most Thursday to Saturdays at 8 pm, with a Sunday 3 pm matinee. There are also two Wednesday performances after the opening weekend. For more information concerning tickets, CLICK HERE.
Also note: Know still requires masks for entry into their performance space, so be certain to bring a mask. They also have a limited supply of masks should someone needs one.