Gidion’s Knot held together by emotional appeals

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Catherine Wu 

Gidion’s Knot, produced in the Phoenix Theater here at Illinois Wesleyan University, offered a jolting tug on the heartstrings.

It is a powerfully affecting and emotionally-driven play that explores the social dynamics that occur between a grieving mother and emotionally distraught schoolteacher after a troubled boy decides to end his own life.

The stage props and set design of Gidion’s Knot were simplistic by design. There were no scene changes, and the story centers on a single parent-teacher conference in a school classroom.

A desk, a curtained doorway, and a few chairs were the only adornments to the classroom setting. A couple of religious posters adorned the walls, and a picture of a cat on the desk served to illustrate the character and beliefs of Gidion’s teacher.

Emotional performances by senior Elaina Henderson as the mother and sophomore Sarah Shelby as the teacher drew me into the mind of Gidion himself as they yelled, sobbed and struggled with one another in an attempt to uncover the truth behind who Gidion was and what he had experienced in his final days leading up to his death.

Henderson’s passionate performance as the angry but remorseful mother made me sympathize with her character’s loss.

Shelby’s cautious performance as the somewhat withdrawn, emotionally overwhelmed teacher frustrated me to the point where I wanted to yell at her character, but simultaneously moved me as well as she told her side of the story.

I felt compelled to later re-evaluate who I would emulate in such a tragic situation.

Would I be like Corryn, angry at the circumstances, and remorseful for not being more present in my son’s life? Not giving my son enough praise, not letting him know more often that I loved him?

Or would I be more like Heather? Emotionally overwhelmed, disappointed that I couldn’t protect Gidion from himself and from his peers?

One of my takeaways from this play is remembering that time is precious, and that life can be unpredictable.

Seeing Gidion’s Knot at the Phoenix reminded me of the power that people can play in each other’s lives.

It reminded me in its own twisted but powerful way, that we, as friends, teachers, mentors, faculty, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews, all have the power to change and affect one another.

With that, my takeaway from the play is this: always treasure what you have. Live for the present, and be present in the lives of those you love and care about most.