(Boston, MA) A lone girl sits amongst the dirt and potatoes of this agrarian society trying to chase away birds until she can try no more. Striving for more than mere existence in a world controlled by tradition and an inflexible economy often seems futile in the Fenland. Whistler In The Dark compels the audience to exist and hope with the characters for something more.
As the women in the play sing various choruses to songs, one is struck by the pure beauty in these women in this desolate place. One also struggles with the evisceration of these women as they give their lives and their souls to the land. With the assistance of Danny Bryck and an enormous amount of concentration, the actors speak with the flawless dialect of the British countryside. Each cast member plays multiple characters in this dark landscape. The main plot revolves around Val (Aimee Rose Ranger) who is trapped between her obligation to take care of her children and a desire for a better life in London with her lover. She takes no solace in the vices of the other local folk such as valium, religion, dreams, or masochism as she is constantly pulled in both directions. The one direction that she would want to go in, to London and a new life seems millions of miles away.
Freudian analysis? A dream of Dali? Too much spicy food? These are questions the audience might ask while watching Hysteria. Using the real meeting between Freud and Dali as a starting point, Johnson’s play moves from farce to surrealism to nothingness. The Nora Theatre Company makes this strange journey palatable and pleasurable and masks the flaws of the script.
The exaggerated perspective of the set, Freud’s study, immediately tells the audience that something peculiar is going to happen. As the play unfolds, Janie E. Howland’s surrealistic set design matches the frenetic energy that is sent forth from the actors. No one questions the absurdity of the situations that take place because the cast commit fully to the roles that they play. Richard Sneed, as Freud, tries to hold the world together as it keeps trying to spiral out-of-control. His warm-fatherly nature combined with Freud’s philosophies moves the audience from sympathy for a dying man to anger at an intractable man that will not even admit the possibility that he might have erred. Continue reading →
The moment the audience enters the doors (actual scenery), they are invited to join Max Beckmann’s collage of memories. An accordion player crosses the stage and roams the audience prior to the start of the show. The stage is in a state of ordered disorder—the perfect working space for creating art. All of the elements (the music, lighting, acting, scenery, and film) swirl around to form a story of love, loss, sorrow and hope. Continue reading →