Dana H.

Michael Van Duzer Reviews - Theater

Lucas Hnath became a playwright to watch with the Off-Broadway production of Red Speedo and the Actors Theatre of Louisville production of The Christians. He became the playwright to watch with the Broadway production of A Doll's House: Part 2 and the currently running Broadway production of Hillary and Clinton.

CTG is presenting the world premiere of his new play, Dana H. But perhaps “play” isn’t the correct description for the production that awaits you at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. The script is culled from interviews with Hanth’s mother about an incident in her life when she was abducted by an ex-con. And, while there are plenty of scripts based on real-life interviews, Dierdre O’Connell, the actress who inhabits the role of Dana, speaks none of Dana’s words. Instead, she lipsyncs to edited recordings of the interviews.

The effect is astonishing in a purely technical sense. O’Connell’s masterful performance captures every syllable, “um,” throat-clearing, and intake of breath. One might expect that this conceit to distance the audience from the disturbing nature of the narrative. But that is not the case. Like Lypsinka and other artists who have pushed the boundaries of simply mouthing recorded words,  O’Connell reveals the humanity behind the technique.

In this era of true crime documentaries, the choice to use an actress and the recordings bring a self-conscious theatricality to this equally harrowing and head-scratching tale of Dana’s brutalization by her abductor and her long road to re-entering society.

Director Les Waters has carefully devised the production to heighten the dichotomy between the realistic, Andrew Boyce’s all-too-familiar motel room, and the bizarre tale being told. He also keeps the tension ratcheted up for the play’s 75 minutes.

Dana H. is a production that will polarize audiences with its unique presentation and the unsettling nature of its storyline. But it is a truly unique theatrical experience.

Kirk Douglas Theatre    June 2 – June 23, 2019     www.CenterTheatreGroup.org