American Players Theatre Presents BLOOD KNOT Review – Family Ties Breaking

Two brothers sit across from each other, breathing heavily---

One black, and one passably white.

The tension is palpable.  There are shattered remains of dishes on the floor, furniture overturned, and the threat of violence still in the air.  

Zacharia and Morris have reached the boiling point of their relationship. Their home, even though it is a shack of a house in South Africa, was once filled with care. Now, it is filled with unease and imbalance.

BLOOD KNOT takes us into their home and unravels their carefully crafted surface-level relationship.

American Players Theatre presents story of a Brotherhood Bond

Each day Zacharia trudges around the corner, walking home after being on his feet all day. Morris waits dutifully for him, peering around the door, water being kept warm on the stove, and foot tub laid ready by the bedside. And Morris, each and everyday, washes his brother’s feet.   His task is keeping the home, while Zach is out providing for both of them.

Though normal as this established routine is for the two brothers, something is lurking beneath the surface. When Zacharia mistakenly writes a white woman who says she will come visit him, the only way to avoid trouble is to have Morris pass as a white man to meet her. Little do the brothers realize, this will only set off a series of events that will leave their relationship changed for good.     

Getting to the Root of the Problem

The first act of BLOOD KNOT is mostly set up - who Zach and Morris are, their routine, establishing the conflict.   For this writer, this long first act setup lacks momentum and keeps us from engaging fully.

American Players Theatre BLOOD KNOT
American Players Theatre BLOOD KNOT

However, after intermission, the layers peel away from the brothers and it all becomes clear. They are not simply working towards one common goal of a better life. There is a surprising amount of resentment towards each other that our actors deliver with a forceful amount of passion.

Simple but Powerful Moments

Though it takes a while to get to the meat of the play, when we are there each moment feels pronounced and powerful.  We can’t look away, our eyes wide as we hold our breath.

American Players Theatre BLOOD KNOT

Gavin Lawrence playing Zacharia delivers a monologue to his deceased mother that delves into his feelings of not being the favorite son. When he finishes, a slow rumble of thunder passes through the theater and we feel a deep unsettling in our chest.

Jim DeVita’s movements as he plays Morris are very loose, soft, and passive as he takes care of the house. But when he puts on a suit to embody a white man, the change is night and day. When he shouts at Zacharia, an audible gasp comes from every audience member.  

And when they role play together, the lines become blurred and we suddenly are not sure if this is just their experiences they’re re-enacting or if these are their true feelings. Do they truly hate each other? Or are they just too committed to their roles?

BLOOD KNOT deals with the familial bonds that tie us together. But for these two brothers, they also must deal with racial inequality living in the apartheid society of South Africa. This might not be the best show for those who like happy endings or shows that resolve amicably. However, BLOOD KNOT is good for those who are looking for a drama the dives into race and family relations.

American Players Theatre BLOOD KNOT
American Players Theatre BLOOD KNOT

When:

Now through September 28
Performance schedule varies, please see website for more details

Where:

American Players Theatre
Touchstone Theatre
5950 Golf Course Rd.
Spring Green, WI 53588

Tickets:

$59+

Tickets can be purchased online at the American Players Theatre website

Photos: Liz Lauren

CAST

Jim DeVita, Gavin Lawrence

CREATIVE

Ron OJ Parson, Eva Breneman, Jake Penner, Samantha C. Jones, Regina García, Jesse Klug, Josh Schmidt, Brian Byrnes, Lukas Brasherfons, Brandi Mans, Heather Sopel, David Hartig, Laura F. Wendt

Alexis Bugajski Photo: Liz Lin

About the Author

Alexis is a theater reviewer, travel bug, media specialist, and burger & beer enthusiast. During the day she works in the advertising business as a senior communications designer. When night falls, or when she can escape to New York, she’s hitting the theaters to see as many shows as she can. And whenever she’s not at her desk or in the audience, she’s out seeking the best burger and beer offerings in Chicago.

Editor's Note:  Click here to read more Picture this Post articles by Alexis Bugajski

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