The setting is the epitome of pedagogical order. Posters of Hindu deities line the walls, a giant bottle of hand sanitizer sits sentry on the teacher’s desk, buckets of markers top the tables. But in Johnna Adams’ Gidion’s Knot, this cheery classroom becomes a battlefield. A fifth-grader named Gidion has been suspended for mysterious reasons, and his mother, Corryn, stops by for a parent-teacher conference. Corryn is a blowsy, distraught match for the evasive teacher, and understandably so, as the details surrounding Gidion’s suspension trickle agonizingly out. But what could be a didactic, hot-button debate is instead a sophisticated and open-ended discourse that plays out in real time, with the clock tick-tocking on the wall. The women’s conversation moves from a recitation of Gaelic poetry—all “fucking and fighting,” Corryn says, in a bit of foreshadowing—to a discussion of adolescent sexuality to questions of creative expression and censorship. Dana Green and Amy Newman, the only actors in this taut Third Rail production, are simultaneously sympathetic and detestable, and they maintain the play’s tension through its many pauses and halts. It’s rare for a piece of theater to resonate on emotional and intellectual levels, but that’s precisely what these 80 minutes manage to do. 

SEE IT: Gidion's Knot is at CoHo Theater, 2257 NW Raleigh St., 235-1101. 7:30 pm Thursdays-Saturdays and 2 pm Sundays through March 15. $27.