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Post-apocalyptic play studies genetic engineering

COURTESY PHOTO - Left to right, Rian Turner, Kathryn Brown and Ravyn Jazper-Hawke star in 'I Know Things' at HART Theatre.What are people willing to give up in order to advance or even to simply survive? How much can human impulses be manipulated before they snap? What has genetic fiddling done to mankind?

These questions are running through the minds of all the characters in playwright Don Teeters’ futuristic thriller, “I Know Things,” premiering at HART Theatre, 185 S.E. Washington St., on Friday, Jan. 29, at 7:30 p.m.

Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the production deals with the emotional backlash of human genetic engineering, as a dysfunctional family struggles to advance in a highly controlled new-world order. The play is directed by Fayra Teeters, the playwright’s wife.

“There’s a great war over water, which becomes scarce, and after the war, people hid away underground,” she said. “Then they were genetically engineered to conform, which isn’t a good thing.”

The dystopian-like production brings things to a smaller scale by examining the long-term effects of this society on a family. It stars Colin Trevor as Daniel, the emotion-driven scientist; Kathryn Brown as Cristal, his brilliant, clear-headed daughter; Ravyn Jazper-Hawke as Cly, his enigmatic replicant wife; and Rian Turner as Derrick, the fugitive Islander.

“A lot of them are with the company and they ‘speak Fayra’ and understand my direction,” Fayra Teeters said. “Working with them has been a joy, and they’re sci-fi enthusiasts, which is a plus.”

Masque Alfresco, the company putting on the play, is entering its 15th year of producing new works and modern updates of commedia dell’arte classics. Masque was organized in the summer of 2002 to provide affordable, accessible theater to the residents of Portland area communities. The play is part of Fertile Ground 2016, an arts festival set for Jan. 21-31 in Portland. The citywide festival is focused on new work in the arts and will feature world-premiere projects, including staged readings and developing works.

Last year, the festival included more than 75 new works, from theatre to dance ensemble to comedy and film. Fertile Ground was launched by the Portland Area Theatre Alliance in 2009 to provide a platform for Portland theater companies to showcase their commitment to new work.

“I Know Things” is Don Teeters’ and Masque Alfresco’s third Fertile Ground premiere and his most thought-provoking work to date.

“I would probably equate it to what it would look like if Donald Trump became president,” Fayra added.

The play will also run Saturday, Jan. 30, at 2 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 31, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and $10 for students, and can be purchased at boxofficetickets.com, hart-theatre.org or by calling 503-254-5104.