In this heartbreakingly funny play by Andrew Bovell, we watch as members of the Price family struggle to make room for their true selves within their predetermined family roles.
“Things I Know to be True” begins with a monologue from the youngest Price daughter, Rosie (Aubyn Heglie). She is away on an extended vacation. Feeling low, she begins to pine for her family. In this scene, Rosie introduces the audience to the Price family, her mother and father, Fran (Jordan Baker) and Bob (Bill Geisslinger), her siblings, Pip (Kelley Faulkner) Ben (Zach Fifer), and Mia (Kevin Kantor). Upon Rosie’s return home, the family welcomes her warmly and we feel a genuine sense of love between them.
The story progresses over the course of a year. During which time, we see the characters struggle between the urge to live their lives with absolute honesty and living up to the expectations of their family. This fine line walks along such matters as love, identity, double standards, regret, and the indelible aching of possibilities unpursued. In this production, the specifics become the social, making this play highly relatable.
This production is well cast; the actors do an incredible job of immersing the audience in the emotional highs and lows of the Price family. Baker and Geisslinger gave notable performances as the parents of the Price children. Where Geisslinger emanated calm, straight lines as the understanding father, Baker’s performance embodies the chaotic layers of Fran Price wonderfully. This pair does a fine job of portraying a couple that has been together so long, their traits begin to polarize as a mode of self-preservation. Through the parent’s interactions with each of their children, we see the wrenching disbelief of expectations unfulfilled and watch as they contemplate the true price of happiness.
The play is largely set in the Price family’s backyard. As Pip mentions, “This backyard is everything.” Watching the family muse backward and forward in time, you start to believe her. The story of the Price family is told not only in memories but in their hopes for the future. These memories and hopes appear to be anchored to the large, beautifully crafted, oak tree which dominates the stage. This oak tree is the symbolic support of the family. The lighting and changing foliage move us through the seasons and the collaboration of the set components reinforce the sense of contemporary familiarity.
Though it is set in a midwestern backyard, this intimate family play faces a spectrum of themes relevant to modern society. Things I Know to be True wants the audience to see their own families on the stage and this production pulls that off. At times, the action is a bit crowded and distracting, particularly during the monologues. There are moments when the musical selections feel a bit out of place. These were minor distractions in this otherwise outstanding production.
This play is extremely funny and enjoyable, but what makes it worth seeing is that it’s not afraid to be honest. You will undoubtedly laugh a lot and more than likely cry a little as you relive your own memories through the stories of the Price family. The writing is so funny, so authentic, and so universal, you will feel as though parts were ripped from your own thoughts.
“Things I Know to be True” is showing at the Temple of Music and Art (330 S. Scott Ave.) through May 11. For more information, call 622-2823 or go online to arizonatheatre.org. A longer version of this review can be found at tamingofthereview.com.