Review by Abby Rowold of Andy’s House of [blank]: Know Theatre
Paul Strickland is a charming storyteller and a Know Theatre favorite from past Fringe and Serials performances, and his Andyâ€™s House of [blank], playing at the Know Theatreâ€™s Underground Stage until November 14th, is deserving of its spot on the line-up of the main season. The entertaining musical, co-written and performed with Trey Tatum, is more proof that the Know is on the right track with supporting and developing local work from the (under) ground up.
The story revolves around the strangest item (a mysterious machine brought in by Andyâ€™s old school crush Sadie) in Andyâ€™s House of [blank] and Museum of Unmailed Love Letters. The blank stands for whatever the quirky Andy decides will sell at any given time and his two new teenage hires (Strickland and Tatum) spend a lot of time painting new signs. Time plays an important role in the story as the teens meet as adults and try to solve the mystery of the crazy summer of 1998 they spent working for Andy, whose behavior became more and more unusual as the summer wore on.
The cast is solid and likeable. Christopher Michael Richardson with his clear and melodious voice at first seems too put-together to be the proprietor of such a bizarre shop, but he slides easily into playing the sensitive and eccentric title character. He is easy to love and we want to see him solve the complex science fiction conundrum he is faced with.
Erika Kate MacDonald is given better material than the average â€œgirl that the protagonist loves,â€ and she carries it off nicely, making us care for a type of character that in other plays might not get much material to work with. MacDonaldâ€™s character Sadie is loved by Andy because she too is an outsider, she has felt as alienated as Andy, and she is not desired simply because she is a pretty face or because she is some kind of prize to be won. The relationship seems like it could be real, and you want it to succeed as a result. The chemistry between the characters is by no means smoldering, but they share a nerdy and endearing connection.
Bridget Leak does a tidy job of directing the show that can wander just a tiny bit as it tries to fill an hour and forty-five minutes. But the wanderings are fun and entertaining and Ms. Leak keeps the show deftly moving in the small and charmingly make-shift set, which is cleverly rendered almost entirely from cardboard.
The curiosities that inhabit Andyâ€™s shop (described by Sadie in an angry moment as a place with the s*it no one else wants) include several taxidermy animals, Judyâ€™s â€œgarland,â€ jars of air, and a hammer that was used to kill a horse. The attention the playwrights give to the shop and its contents almost overshadows the stories of the characters, at times making the shop the main character. There are numerous references to the peculiar, another-manâ€™s-treasure type items, and they are given ample attention in the lyrics of the songs, but Stickland and Tatum are able to make the items an essential part of Andyâ€™s character in a tender flashback to a bus ride in 1981 where Andy almost gives Sadie his own unmailed love letter.
The space is cozy, the sound is not too loud and not too quiet, and the time flies by as an entertaining crew delivers an engrossing love story/science fiction/musical tale. Head down to the Know and catch a Cincinnati original.
Andyâ€™s House of [Blank], written by Paul Stickland and Trey Tatum runs October 30-November 14, 2015, at Know Theatreâ€™s Underground stage.â€¨Wed-Saturday at 8pm.â€¨Sunday at 3pm.
The show runs 1:45 with one 15-minute intermission.