ATC’s “Things I Know to Be True” is a Painful, Poignant Family Drama

(Courtesy of )
A performance of "Things I Know To Be True."

All alone in a foreign country, Rosie lists the things she knows to be true: Love exists, love is all-consuming, and sometimes love can leave you with an empty bed and a bag that’s empty of the euros and electronics that were there the night before.

As Aubyn Heglie’s Rosie Price delivers a breathless monologue on her journey through Europe, the stage glows with warm light and her cast members move around the stage like shadows. Her mother, father and two brothers wordlessly surround her, lifting her up like an angel atop a Christmas tree and rotating her slowly.

It’s only the beginning, and it’s a slow, contemplative one, but Heglie’s wide eyes and passionate words make one wonder why she trotted around the globe away from home.

Then she returns to the Price family, and the stage erupts with energy: Rosie’s mother Fran (Jordan Baker) marches up, dominating the conversation and figuring out Rosie’s problems in the way that only overly inquisitive mothers with a sharp sixth sense can. Older sister Pip (Kelley Faulkner) joins, rushed and stressed, yet graceful despite the chaos.

Then her father, Bob (Bill Geisslinger) ambles up, complaining about the coffee pot, which the slick, well-dressed Ben (Zach Fifer) swears is simple to use.

Throughout it all, Rosie’s favorite sibling Mark/Mia (Kevin Kantor) shrugs off intrusive questions and smiles easily despite the tension of a recent breakup. Their conversations coalesce, different sentences and ideas intertwining in an authentic, chaotic mess that’s reminiscent of an actual family get-together.

Later on, each sibling will get their own time in the spotlight, speaking about their perspective and revealing layers to their personality they don’t show the others.

Playwright Andrew Bovell’s writing makes each character stand out as a believable, real person. I’ve seen Pips jogging down the street, Bens marching ahead with their crisp suits and expensive phones, speaking loudly so everyone hears how important their conversations are.

I’ve met more Frans and Bills than I can count, and each cast member plays upon the page to make their three-dimensional characters as intriguing as possible. Some so much so that I find myself wishing they had for screen time, as with Mia, Rosie’s troubled older sibling with a secret she’s been hiding for far too long.

Kantor plays Mark with such emotion that my heart hurts for them even though we’ve barely been introduced, and I found myself wanting to learn more about Mark.

Throughout it all, the cast plays perfectly off of each other, their chemistry so natural the many layers of the Price family’s relationships are made completely realistic.

When scenes transition, the grounded family dynamics are uplifted by artistic, ethereal transitions and dances from stage movement director Julia Rhoads. It lends the play a dichotomy between gritty reality—the pain that comes with loving others and enduring life—and the beauty of the love that keeps them together.

Throughout the ecstatic highs and devastating lows, director Scott Davis keeps “Things I Know to be True” captivating.

All of the drama is set against a stunning and simplistic set designed by Scott Davis. A gorgeous tree hangs over half the stage, interwoven with warm lights and a backdrop of textured flowers that flare up in different colors to reflect the many moods.

The play is at times playful and, at other times, brutally honest about family, marriage, love and the pain that comes with caring for others. There are many ways in which “Things I Know to Be True” succeeds, storytelling, acting and set designing among them. Yet at the end of the day what it does best is resonate.

Contact the reporter at [email protected].