Directed by Frédérique Michel
Production Design by Charles A. Duncombe
Cast: Justin Davanzo, Lena Kouyoumdjian, Cynthia Mance, Tim Orona, Kenneth Rudnicki, Ann Colby Stocking
by Paul Birchall, August 16, 2011
GO Playwright Sarah Kane’s kaleidoscopic drama premiered shortly after her suicide in 2000. At the time, one British theater critic called the work a “70 minute suicide note” – and, of course, even with the best will in the world, it is almost impossible to separate the intense and ferociously angry text of the work from the tragic real world story surrounding it. This is particularly true when you consider that the lyrical writing overtly deals with issues of depression and mental illness from the point of view of the sufferer – it may be one of the best plays to depict suicidal depression from the inside out.
Set, as the program notes, “inside a deranged brain,” the work consists of a series of fragmented exchanges that often take the form of inchoate expressions of rage twinned with frustrated awareness of a lack of control. A clearly unstable young woman (Cynthia Mance) sits center stage, bracketed by two figures in chairs behind her and another figure, a seemingly severed head in a bird cage — all of whom mutter abrasive vituperations at the hapless girl. There is also a pair of other performers who portray the doctors attempting to treat her – even though they offer only the coldest comfort to the angst-ridden heroine — offering utterances like “I know nothing of you, but I like you!”
Frederique Michel’s harrowing and edgy production, replete with eerie sound effects and dialogue interspersed with characters suddenly lurching into rhythmic spasms and twitching, hauntingly captures the state of mind of someone with tunnelvision perception in which all thoughts, excuses, and opinions inevitably lead to one ultimate act self-negation. Designer Charles Duncombe’s sterile hospital room-like set and the eerie, percussive sound effects suggest the heroine’s matter-of-fact view of her own madness and feelings of emptiness. The production delivers a disturbing and striking theatrical experience. City Garage at Track 16 Gallery (Building C) at Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Blvd, Santa Monica; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 9. (310) 319-9939.