4.48 Psychosis Invades the Mind of Playwright Sarah Kane at Son of Semele

Leigh Kennicott Reviews - Theater

When approaching Sarah Kane’s difficult, disjointed musings on the journey of desolation in her brief life, it is important to take to heart director Matthew McCray’s explanation of the company’s process. In a sense, it is an effort to bring coherence to the voices, echoes, and reverberations this poet set down in an effort to explain herself.  Of necessity, the addition of muses Melina Bielefelt, Taylor Hawthorne, Jinny Ryann, and Betsy Zajko, in representing her voices, brings order to the chaos; but it robs us of Kane’s disordered mind and the reason she (may have) wanted to express it to herself.

Suffice it to say that the cacophony, interrupted by nuggets of dialogue exemplified by Don Bottitta, a psychiatrist who left her too soon, represents the “soup” of Kane’s despair within which her attempts at recovery swam. Miss Dylan Jones has the unenviable task of repeating this journey four times a week, and any less grounded actor may not have been able to travel the distance from start to finish.  But Jones manages not to sink into the morass by giving some of the emotion to the muses. As a result, audiences can sit at a safe, dramatic distance and witness the horror that Kane lived without sinking into the same despair.  But in her demise, we can see the glimmer of the hope she held onto even in the act of suicide.  “Remember the light,” she wrote.  “And believe the light.” Certainly death was her effort to reach it.

We can shake our heads and say to each other, “Something should be done.  People shouldn’t have to go through these things.”  Questions then arise.  Would it have helped to appeal to theories about the eternity of life?  Or would it help to put Kane under 24-hour surveillance and thus extend her suffering to the end of her lifetime? How should we think about suicide in this instance?  How are we to think of the 10-14 year olds who have taken similar extreme measures just in the last few years?

If we leave this performance asking ourselves these questions, and the biggest one: “What can I do”?  Sarah Kane’s cry in the wilderness will not have been in vain.

It seems anticlimactic, doesn’t it, but important to mention some of the people who made this brave production possible.  Here they are: Impactful video, created by Corwin Evans. More traditional elements --- costumes by Michael Mullen, lighting (Matt Richter) and sound (Daniel Gower) --- blend with the unobtrusive setting (David Offner) to provide a perfect background to the expressive action.

4.48 Psychosis continues Tuesdays at 7:00, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00, Sundays at 5:00 pm through November 3rd at the Son of Semele Theater, 3301 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles 90004.  Buy tickets online at http://www.sonofsemele.org.