Tuesday, September 8, 2015

theatre review - HYSTERIA - Southwest Shakespeare Company - September 4, 2015

Clay Sanderson. Beau Heckman, Alison Sell,
and William Wilson
photo: Sara Chambers

Click here for more information on this production that runs through September 19th.

"Terry Johnson's Hysteria is an intelligent play that combines bits of comedy and drama into a funny, thought-provoking, and ultimately moving work. Southwest Shakespeare Company's production of this brainy, but never intimidating, 1993 play features stunning performances and succinct direction that turns the whole affair into an effective piece of theatre. Johnson sets his fictional play in 1938 in the Hampstead study of Sigmund Freud, who has recently fled Nazi-occupied Austria and now lives in London. Late one night, Freud, in his eighties and suffering through the constant pain caused by cancer of the jaw, is visited by the strange and frantic Jessica who comes knocking on his garden door, demanding to be let inside...Through the course of the two hour play Freud is also visited by his faithful doctor Abraham Yahuda and Salvador Dalí...Freud finds himself pulled in different directions by all three people as they all desire his attention. He also finds himself pulled between sanity and madness, wondering if what he is experiencing is simply an effect of his subconscious mind as the cancer takes over his body and his imagination runs wild....The end result is a fascinating play of humor and heart with some emotionally stirring scenes, including a powerful last few minutes. As Freud, Beau Heckman...instills the role with a seriousness that never falters and does a wonderful job in showing us what happens to this man who is used to being in control but finds the tables turned when chaos comes to call. Allison Sell is superb as Jessica. ...Sell brings a fierce, raw determination to the role of this mysterious woman on a mission, yet also doesn't miss a comic beat...William Wilson delivers a tour-de-force performance as the impulsive Salvador Dalí...As Yahuda, Clay Sanderson is the straight man to the lunacy swirling around him and he pulls it off extremely well, especially in his final scene with Freud that is exceptionally moving. I can't imagine four better actors playing these parts with more ease, nuance, and expression.  Director Patrick Walsh walks the fine line between farce and drama, between fantasy and reality, and manages to make you guffaw one moment and gasp another, without it ever seeming like two disparate plays haphazardly stuck together. ...With full performances and rich direction that are as passionate, humorous and imaginative as the play, Southwest Shakespeare's Hysteria is an excellent production that makes you laugh out loud one moment while thinking deeply the next. The program notes mention that this is the first time the play has been produced in Arizona. It was well worth the wait."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

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