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Hysteria at American Stage

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Review by Craig Corliss

 

Terry Johnson’s Hysteria revolves around a meeting between Sigmund Freud and Salvador Dalí. Although the play is almost entirely fictional, the meeting itself was real, taking place about a year before Freud died. The play often felt as surreal as one of Dalí’s paintings, with situations and occurrences that are fascinating to watch and at times a struggle to understand.

The play is somewhat of a mash-up of a farce and a mystery. There are times when the audience cannot help but laugh, and others where they sit forward in their seats, straining to see what happens next, and if their guesses are correct.

The four characters seen on stage are each distinct and different. From Freud’s querulous Germanic accent, to Dalí’s wild and outrageous persona, to Abraham Yahuda, Freud’s physician and friend, each of the actors brings life to a unique and likable character. The real show-stealer here, though, is Stacy Fischer as Jessica. The heart of the mystery in the show, she manages to be both genuine and sympathetic as she handles topics and situations of a horrifying and difficult nature. Her portrayal of various neurosis and her breakdown during a relived session with Freud are flawless and emotional. As the play draws to a close, she turns the tables and begins a bizarre psychoanalysis of the great mind of Sigmund Freud himself.

Aside from Fischer, the next greatest asset to this show is the stage itself, designed by SPC’s own Scott Cooper. A masterpiece of technical work, near the end of the play the set transforms into one of Dali’s own paintings, with walls and clocks melting, phones transforming into lobsters, and doors changing where they stand. It’s an amazing piece of design worth going to see all by itself.

The play runs through October 21st, at American Stage and runs approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes including an intermission. This play does contains mature subject matter and language, as well as brief nudity, so parental guidance is suggested. This play is a fun romp through the mind of the “Father of Psychoanalysis”, but is never truly ludicrous. Even in the midst of dealing with the impossible, the actors here manage to keep the play grounded and believable. This is one farce that truly makes you think, and leave with some ideas you never had before. Student Advance tickets are $20. Students Rush tickets are $10, 30 minutes prior to curtain.

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