Play: 4.48 Psychosis
Group: Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble
Venue: The Chapel - Sanctuary for the Arts, 6238 Alexander
Dates: March 4,5,6,7
Tickets: $10-$15; contact 314-835-7415 or www.slightlyoff.org
Story: A one-act drama by the late English playwright Sarah Kane, who committed suicide in 1999 at age 28, 4.48 Psychosis is a play without characters and without stage direction, written from the point of view of someone, such as the playwright, suffering from clinical depression. Essentially, it’s a journey through the hellish psychological landscape of the protagonist and her ruminations on love, life and death, with side trips into religion, philosophy and societal frameworks. The title derives from the time of morning when the author would awake from troubling dreams.
Highlights: Because there are no set ‘rules’ to the theatrical presentation of this work, the local premiere by Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble allows for great latitude on the part of director Pamela Reckamp and her ensemble. Drawing on the company’s commitment to Suzuki training and Viewpoints, a philosophy and technique in training an ensemble, SATE’s presentation is as much about visual and physical interpretation as literary.
Reckamp moves the six-person ensemble through a disciplined series of exercises that stretches their physical ability to contort and expand as well as to improvise their own interpretations of the mental illness depicted. Here, four different women converge as aspects of one troubled individual, with Cara Barresi, Margeau Baue Steinau and Kimberly Mason acting as offshoots in the troubled mind of Audrey Martin. A pair of psychiatrists, depicted by Ellie Schwetye and Rachel Tibbetts, offer contrasting attempts at therapy, mostly indifferent to the plight of the patient.
Other Info: This freefall but disciplined undertaking is played out on a spartan set designed by Reckamp that allows for a series of exercises, some challenging and others merely routinized, by the players, complemented by a loud, brackish sound design and harsh lighting from designer Michael Perkins, guaranteed to raise the hackles on your back and leave you thankful for any shreds of normalcy you may possess. Kirsten Wylder serves as costume consultant for the disheveled look of the patient and the oddly differing appearances of the physicians, one somewhat elegantly attired and the other rather casual.
It’s all cleverly and beguilingly directed by Reckamp in about 80 alarming minutes, and will certainly give one cause to ponder. Beyond whatever literary value 4.48 Psychosis can deliver, though, it’s most assuredly a sobering message from a disturbing land.
Rating: A 3.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.