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Previews: 01/11/09- Close: 02/07/09 23 Knives
Reviewed for By: Ashley Griffin

Seven truths about 23 Knives:

Jon Kandel ©2020  Ryan Tramont as Marcus Antonius with ensemble
Truth #1: 23 Knives tells the story of Antistius (Patrick Melville), who, history tells us, performed the first forensic autopsy on the corpse of Julius Caesar. As Antistius and his slave Janus (Todd Alan Crain) conduct the investigation under orders by the agenda-seeking Marcus Antonius (Ryan Tramont), of later "Antony and Cleopatra" fame, the truth becomes deeply complex and more and more difficult to find.

Truth #2: 23 Knives was one of most satisfying evenings in the theater I have had for a long time.

Truth #3: The cast was remarkable. Each member of the five-person ensemble was wonderful, and meeting each character was like taking out and enjoying a new jewel in a box of precious gems.

Truth #4: As wonderful as the cast was, the performance of Todd Alan Crain as Janus stood out, and stayed with me long after I’d left the theater. A brilliant cross between Marc St. James from “Ugly Betty” and Samwise Gamgee from “The Lord of the Rings,” Crain made me laugh out loud and broke my heart – and the devastating twist regarding his character made me gasp out loud in the theater.

Jon Kandel ©2020  Patrick Melville as Antistius with Brian D. Coats as Musa
Truth #5: 23 Knives explores the deeply moving, and sadly often overlooked, relationship of two platonic friends of the same sex. It is a relationship that occurred often in classic literature but seems to have been lost more recently, but the return to it in this play adds to the tragic nature of the story it’s telling, and it is wonderful to watch. In fact Christopher Boal (the wonderful playwright) also managed to update the idea and structure of ancient Greek and Roman sophistry, making the play feel like a brilliant adaptation of a play by Sophocles.

Truth #6: The design elements worked beautifully. Sarah B. Brown’s sets managed to give the feeling of being in an epic Roman palace while retaining the wonderful intimacy of the Clurman Theater. The scenic design, paired with Pamela Kupper’s simple and lovely lighting, made for times when I actually saw a vibrant sunset or the crowds gathered just outside of the palace walls, even though no such images were literally depicted. Director Eric Parness kept the tension constant, while keeping the action simple. The only possible complaint might be that the cues seemed to be called a hair too early at times in the second act.

Jon Kandel ©2020  Patrick Melville as Antistius with his slave Janus, played by Todd Alan Crain
Truth #7: You cannot be sure of ANY facts that you are presented during the course of the play. But the lovely thing about 23 Knives is that truth, the deeper truths that we are all aware of at the core of our being, manages to soar above the facts as a flute can soar above an orchestra. Not always immediately recognizable, but sweet and present nonetheless. It may be truth disguised as illusion, or even illusion disguised as truth. But there is truth, and that is what makes 23 Knives so beautiful.

Clurman Theater (Theater Row) : 410 W 42nd St