It's really tough to review a play by late playwright Sarah Kane. She loved to write non-linearly, stream of consciousness: sometimes without punctuation, sometimes without delineating characters, or even sometimes without clues as to who says what and when. The rhythms and the feelings surrounding those rhythms are much, much more important than an easy plot and a pat storyline (my first experience with her was with Slightly Askew's stellar production of 4:48 Psychosis). But as tough as it is to review, it's gotta be tougher to direct or to act in. The students at Fontbonne University were not afraid to take on the challenge, in Crave, playing at the their theatre space from Oct. 18th-21st, and they stepped up to the plate admirably.
The story seems to center around C, and her roommates, M, B and A, as C tries to figure out her young life. Pretty soon, however, we realize that the trio are not real people at all, but voices in her head; voices from the past: her mother, her father, various ex-lovers - voices from the present: her id, her conscience, her psychiatrists - maybe even voices from her future, giving advice on how to avoid her pitfalls. Shifting through time and space, we hear about various episodes in youngs C's life. I picked up: an abusive relationship between her parents, the death of her mother , loss and absence, a slew of affairs, young, and adulterous and with both males and females, psychiatric visits, the possible loss of a child - things that would drive a sane person crazy. So all of these voices in her head aren't helping her cope at all; they push her farther and farther into insanity until she is institutionalized and given electro-shock - stripped of her personality in all of its forms, until the true basis of herself finds a way to free itself "into the light" - an ending that anyone familiar with the playwright's life may not find too hopeful.
Director Patricia Duffin deftly maneuvers through a tough script - crafting her take on it, while obviously giving her actors free rein and imput in the show - letting the rhythms and emotions rise and fall and rise again to fever pitch, and leaving us with a final image poignant and ambiguous. Jean Lang as M seems to be the pragmatic and aggressive side of C, Marki Miller as B, the sexual and sophisticated side and Josie Zeguin as A, the loving and clingy side. All three hit their marks and thrill as they do it, each having monologues that give us insight into C's tortured character. But Zoe Sullivan as C is the glue and has the toughest job of all: attempting to make sense of all the lunacy and untimately failing - letting us feel the agony of trying to have a normal life with psychiatric problems, but, tragically, falling too short. Sullivan never lets up, following the voices and being deeply affected by each one; by all the events that have made her into the seriously flawed human being that she has become - a bravura performance by a brave young actor. Jessica Haley, London Reynolds and Claire Toler as the Manipulators take roles that could be seen as glorified set-changers and turn them into a vital part of the production, shifting C's perspective as well as her settings, and literally stripping away costume, accoutrements and layers of feeling, until C has nothing left, and is free to "go into the light".
Lights by Bess Moynihan, costumes by Rebecca Fortiner, props by Meg Brinkley and set by Jon Hisaw fit the story like a straightjacket, and sound design by David Chandler is subtle, moving and deceptively simple, drawing us into the story just as much as the performances.
Mad props to the students of Fontbonne for even attempting such a daring piece; tackling a story and subject matter that mainstay theaters wouldn't (and most likely couldn't) touch. For more information: www.fontbonne.edu.