Review: ‘Know How’ a powerful take on real-life teens in foster care

Share via

Based on a 2010 stage musical written by youths in foster care, “Know How” is an interconnected story of five young people systematically failed by family, institutions and other supposed safety nets while navigating violence, drugs and crime with no adult supervision.

Finally free from her uncle’s sexual predation, Megan (Claribelle Pagan) now faces harassment from mean girls at a group home. Addie (Niquana Clark) has been cutting class for two months, jeopardizing her aunt’s Aid to Dependent Children check. Marie (Ebonee Simpson) has no one to turn to after the death of her grandmother. Eva’s (Gabrielle Garcia) college prospects seem in doubt when her father is busted for crack. Pressured by his brother, Austin (Gilbert Howard) descends into a life of petty crime.

This could be “Rent” for a new generation. The myriad social issues have been properly contextualized into a powerful big picture. The novice actors, who co-wrote the story and all grew up in foster care, are impressively natural and convincing, while Juan Carlos Pineiro Escoriaza’s direction and editing are effectively gritty. You’re hard-pressed to believe that many of the outstanding raw talents featured here are indeed amateurs.


The musical numbers are inconsistent, ranging from radio-ready to after-school-special quality. Some story lines pale compared with the others. But overall, this is an immense achievement. You’ll be excited to see what they might do next.


‘Know How’

No MPAA rating

Running time: 1 hour, 46 minutes

Playing: Laemmle’s Music Hall 3, Beverly H