Squirrel for Your Thoughts: OTP’s “Fear Project”

Presented by Open Theatre Project
Created by Lynda Backman, Molly Gilbert, Zahra A. Belyea, Sarah Jacobs, Rosie Mcinnes, Robin Abrahams, Hal Halper, J. Deschene, Lydia Jane Graeff, Athena-Gwendolyn Baptiste
Directed by Lynda Bachman and Molly Gilbert

April 28 – May 13, 2017
St. John’s Church
Jamaica Plain, MA
OTP on Facebook

Review by Kitty Drexel

(Jamaica Plain, MA) OTP’s Fear Project tells human stories of insecurity and fragility. It is comprised in two halves of short vignettes strung to make a unified narrative. They slowly reveal the interconnected fears of an estranged brother and sister struggling to maintain their family ties. They suffer their secrets alone even as they project the same fears.

Those expecting the Fear Project to be about scary bumps in the night, and factual demons will be disappointed. This show is about the figurative monsters that keep us from loving our most vulnerable selves. OTP tells us stories about universal themes such as crippling self-doubt, insecurities, and anxieties based on mental conjecture. The narrative grows more personal when it takes on the constant, persistent fears caused by racial, and gender inequities. These are the fears that live in the front and back of one’s mind no matter where, what or when you are.

Sexual assault and alcoholism are both touched upon. Sensitive audience members should attend according to their capability.

St. John’s found black box is an intimate, live space. Audience members are inches away from the cast. At the performance I attended, some of us had a difficult time adjusting to such a thin 4th wall. This was made especially clear when the 4th wall disappeared altogether. The actors firmly gripped their characters and maintained focus despite our skittishness. Rosie McInnes appeared to be energized by our nervousness.

For a show about fear, this one is quite funny. The third scene is a science fiction dream sequence in which Sarah Jacobs and Hal Halper are alone on a strange new planet. The jetpack and other space props by Alan White are very clever. They were of high quality while being made from everyday materials. 

The squirrel/beat poet scene was thematically unique but dramatically appropriate. Actors grace the stage in rodent-chic accoutrement. The dialogue on animal fears was real but also humorous. People can understand that a fear is illogical and still retain the illogical fight or flight response.

This scene is reversed in a second act vignette about Bugs. The bugs are in a human abuse support group setting. Silkworms are robbed. Lady bugs are stereotyped. It’s they who fear us. While the character assignments weren’t clear in the writing, the sentiment proposed by the script was: humans are more fearful to bugs than vice versa.  

The programme includes a thorough note from the directors on the creation of the Fear Project and what does and does not constitute documentary theatre. It was a helpful tool in preparing for the show at the last minute. Kudos to the writers for their depth and sensitivity.


Ask me again in Comic Sans.


The adage asks: “What would you do if you had no fear?” Artists are fearless. We don’t lack courage; we lack funds. As the actions of the President spur the founding fathers and mothers to turn in their graves, please consider putting your money where your mettle is by donating to the Arts.


Queen’s Note:
We elected a thin-skinned bigot to the office of the President dead set on turning our “democracy” into a fascist, totalitarian oligarchy dominated by the 1%. Trump is a monster. His policies, when he names them, are destructive. His narcissistic behavior is more so.

Congressional “negotiators” released a spending bill that saves the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for Humanities, and National Public Radio until September at which time, the President and his impotent cronies may still cut arts funding. It is ever important to remain vigilant. And, for the love of all that’s sacred, keep creating. If you need help, ask for it. Our existence is our resistance. May the force be with you. – KD

TCG has a list of things you can do to help.

#blacklivesmatter #translivesmatter #brownlivesmatter #yellowlivesmatter #lgbtqialivesmatter #immigrantlivesmatter #muslimlivesmatter #disabledlivesmatter #theatreartsmatter #NODAPL

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