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LETTERS TO EDITOR
A CurtainUp Review
by Les Gutman
Director Claude Régy has staged it, in French translation, on the expansive thrust of the stage at BAM's Harvey Theater. On it, he has placed the static image of the work's principal voice (the estimable French actress, Isabelle Huppert); behind a scrim covering the entire proscenium, he positions a second voice (Gérard Watkins-- a doctor, a lover, a friend, or perhaps just an inner voice). This choice subverts my instinct, but effectively conveys the notion of a woman frozen in a larger world in which she finds herself unable to function.
Huppert gives us a remarkable image, and an acting exercise of astonishing proportion. Through one and three-quarter hours of performance, her shoulders do not move, she does not shift, and her eyes blink infrequently. The most frequent physical activity we see is in her hands from which, at her side, she periodically extends her pinkie finger. (Late in the show, all of her fingers will arc.) For most of the show, she speaks in monotone. That she can sustain our attention is a remarkable achievement. This is particularly true for those who cannot follow the play in French; there are only "abridged" surtitles in English, which are projected practically out of the audiences field of vision.
A synopsis of Sarah Kane is essential. A young British playwright whose plays were immediately a shot across the theatrical bow, she committed suicide (after many attempts) shortly after completing this, her fifth and final script. Being a play about suicide -- 4:48 is said to be the time in the early morning at which, statistically, most suicides occur -- 4.48 Psychose (4:48 Psychosis in English) is perhaps as close to a precise exploration of the mind of a suicide victim as one will ever find.
Kane wrote the piece without assigning any of its lines to specific characters. On paper, it looks more like a poem than a play. Implicitly, it is thus an invitation to directors to fathom its construction. Régy has interpreted it sparsely, and in a way that reïnforces the notion that the play's "others" are in fact a cacophony of voices residing only in the writer/principal character's mind. It's a tough piece of theater under any circumstances, but this director has opted to avoid the opportunity to use theatricality to make it resonate more explicitly.
There is evidence -- in a note from the director included in the press materials and also in the instruction I received from the usher (that the director did not want the audience talking before the show!) -- that the intent was to create something of a psychotherapy session between patient and audience. At imes, it was an enlightening experience, but ultimately it was not a particularly successful one.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by our editor.
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