Thoughts & Musings

‘Hysteria’ a dream of a play at 2nd Story

A play that will challenge you, both during the performance and later when you try to put it all together.

by Don Fowler, Warwick Beacon
  • 8th February 20168/02/16
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Director Ed Shea has a fascination with Freud. He played the famous psychiatrist a summer ago in “Freud’s Last Session.”

Shea is back, both starring in and directing Terry Johnson’s “Hysteria,” a play that teeters between reality and dreams, memories and fantasies, serious tragedy and Moliere-like farce.

Shea has returned to theatre-in-the-round for this two-act, quickly paced, hour and 40-minute production.

It is a dark and stormy night. Freud, suffering from throat cancer, awakens to a knock at his door. Enter Jessica (Lara Hakeem), a young lady who is troubled and acting irrationally.

Two other visitors show up: a doctor (Michael McAdam) who is at odds with Freud publishing a book filled with theories he opposes, and Salvador Dali, who just shows up (Luis Astudillo). The conversation and physical activity turns farcical to the point of people running in and out of doors, losing their clothing and acting quite strange.

Then Jessica reveals a deep, dark secret that involves Freud’s past actions. Things turn very dark.

Issues of sexual abuse, war, the Holocaust, surrealism and Freud’s controversial theories are bandied about hysterically.

What’s going on?

There are hints that will be slowly revealed, both in Johnson’s script and the always helpful essay by Dr. Eileen Warburton.

“A farce that makes you think’” the Guardian called it.

“Frivolous and factual, historical and hysterical,” Shea says.

I found the play both challenging and confounding. Staying for the talkback with Shea and Warburton, I did gain more insight into the characters and the author, and I recommend that you invest the extra time after the play.

Pay attention. There are so many little tidbits of information, clues to the dreamlike state that brings these visitors to life in Freud’s hysterical, morphine-induced mind, and thoughts and opinions on some very deep subjects.

“Hysteria” is a play that will challenge you, both during the performance and later when you try to put it all together.

The acting is terrific. Shea is Freud. Hakeem is the type of actor that makes you believe her every word and action. Astudillo, with his authentic accent and brilliant acting, makes us believe he is Dali, even though his mustache is hard to see. McAdam has a much smaller role, but complements the others perfectly.

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