Review by Grace Eichler of Andy’s House of [blank]: Know Theatre
Decorated by Moses’ Toes (a bouquet of roses), Abraham Lincoln’s Lincoln Logs, and Judy’s Garland, the set of Know Theatre of Cincinnati’s Andy’s House of [blank] is the first clue towards the whimsical and silly, while still heartwarming and important, nature of the show. Born out of Know’s Serials! Thunderdome and now directed by Bridget Leak, the musical pieces together the memories of a teenage summer job in Florala, right on the border between Florida and Alabama. Co-creators and stars Paul Strickland and Trey Tatum narrate in the present day, while sliding in and out of their 1990’s 16 year old selves. The two met while working at the ever-changing Andy’s House of [blank] and Museum of Unmailed Loved Letters, where the name changes to reflect the strange array of odds and ends that so delight the owner, Andy.
In a Groundhog Day-esque turn of events, Sadie, a former grade school crush of Andy’s, brings in a strange machine after her father’s death. Once Andy turns the machine on, he starts a “loop” of the same day, over and over again. Andy makes attempt after attempt to change the events of the day, aiming for the perfect ending. The theme of repetition is, well, repeated throughout the show, as Paul and Trey themselves continue to attempt their perfect storytelling. Each character has their moment to realize they need to break the cycle and accept the imperfect nature of it all.
Tatum and Strickland own this show. Their chemistry, timing and ease on stage are enthralling to watch, and their energy seems limitless. Musically, they are both powerhouses, with Strickland on guitar and vocals and Tatum on piano. The songs have beautiful harmonies that surround you, especially in the intimate downstairs stage at Know. The title song has been stuck in my head since opening night, and I’m not complaining.
The two newer additions to the cast, Christopher Michael Richardson’s Andy and Erika Kate MacDonald’s Sadie, bring a different energy to the production. Perhaps it was the outlandish and bizarre set dressings of his store, but I had expected Andy to be a little more “out there.” Richardson’s performance gives Andy the heart needed in order to see him as a love interest, while still having the slightly kooky aura of a man whose store houses taxidermy animals and Medusa’s hair comb. MacDonald’s light soprano voice seemed slightly out of place amongst the other three booming voices, but her performance as Sadie is a nice counter to the crazy that surrounds her.
This was my first time seeing a performance in the Underground venue, and Scenic Designer Sarah Beth Hall has immersed us in Andy’s store. All decor and props, save the musical instruments, are made out of cardboard, which complements the homespun nature of the production. The rear of the house has dozens of Unmailed Loved Letters, found on torn scraps of paper, soda cans and backs of receipts. It’s a wonderful touch that hopefully is noticed throughout the rest of the run.
I thoroughly enjoyed unraveling Andy’s House of [blank], and look forward to see where Strickland and Tatum go next. Their duo is impressive, and the show is a delight. Performances run through November 14, but it’s a small space, so grab your tickets early.