As its title implies (or outright screams), Know Theatre’s production of “Dickless” written by Aisha Josiah does not mince words. Described as “an electrifying dive into the seedy underbelly of a small English town,” this show is non-stop energy and movement told, for the most part, though a series of soliloquies. But never fear: it feels like you are right in the action and each character, both on stage and interpreted, are as real as anyone you’ve ever met.
Director Brant Russell deserves a standing ovation alone for his insightful direction of a piece that can easily be stagnant in the wrong hands. Every movement is deliberate, every stillness is necessary. Russell has a keen eye and his direction collaborates well with the actors’ natural instincts. I will proudly be a broken record in praising the Scenic and Lighting Design of Andrew J. Hungerford. While he clearly has a style, his choices are neither repetitive nor predictable and his gift for using light or lack thereof to convey a scene’s mood is second to none.
For those of you who know my personal tie to this subject, this reviewer would be remiss if she did not specifically mention the contribution of Vocal Coach Sarah Summerwell. A northern England accent is one of the hardest to teach and to master, yet not only are the actors entirely understandable, they speak in the dialect comfortably. Well done!
This may seem an obvious shout-out, but it is entirely deserved: Tess Talbot absolutely crushes her roles in this play (Saff/Oli/Judy). Many of us have come to expect wonderful things from Ms. Talbot as she never seems to disappoint, but this is some of the best work she has ever done. She opens the production as Saff who describes a mad night in England. In the process, she refers to several different people: some of whom we meet later, some of whom we never see. In addition to always giving us good face, Ms. Talbot takes great care to keep the characteristics she displays as each of these people consistent and memorable – so memorable that when her turn comes to be these characters on stage later, the audience already feels they know them. That is class-A acting and that is talent. Brava, Tess!
Not to be outdone, both Jared Earland as Smith Henry and Sydni Solomon as Titch wow us with their prowess. (Didn’t intend for that rhyme, but I’m sticking with it.) Ms. Solomon reminds us of how many up-and-coming skilled young people there are in Cincinnati-area schools who are ready to command our attention. Mr. Earland offers this wonderful quality of being “everyman” as well as nailing more sinister temperaments. Keep your eyes on both talented folks.
Referring again to the title of said show, this production may not be for everyone. It is rated “R” by Know Theatre for language and subject matter. While I am purposely saying very little about the details of the plot, it touches upon alcohol abuse, sexual misconduct, violence, and gender issues. Nonetheless, there is certainly a method to the madness as they say, and I am recommending it highly as a piece you will not want to miss.
“D*ckless” runs now through February 12th. The Know Theatre of Cincinnati, your “theatrical playground,” offers several pricing levels to support your local artists including discounted tickets on Wednesdays through The Welcome Experiment. In the interest of keeping us all safe and healthy, they are also offering streaming options. To purchase tickets, visit https://www.knowtheatre.com/tickets/.