Theatre Reviews
Photo by John Lamb courtesy of Albion Theatre

Susan is dissatisfied with her life. She is in a loveless relationship with her husband. Her son has run off with a sect and is no longer allowed to speak to anyone outside the cult. She takes solace in her backyard garden. Courtesy of the handle of a garden rake smacking her squarely between the eyes, Susan gets to escape her miserable life, at least in her mind. Sir Alan Ayckbourn’s wacky comedy "Woman In Mind (December Bee)” opens with an unconscious Susan waking on her back lawn after being knocked out by a blow to the forehead from stepping on a garden rake. She is being attended to by a doctor who is speaking unintelligible gibberish to Susan. It is evident that one of the early effects of her head injury is receptive aphasia. She is unable to comprehend what others are saying.

Susan’s head injury initially seems as if she may have suffered a mild to moderate concussion. Her symptoms include sleeping throughout the day and repeated fainting spells. But as the play progresses, Susan’s symptoms continue to worsen. She exhibits some of the clinical hallmarks of a person who has sustained a more significant head injury. Susan appears fine physically, but cognitively she is impaired. She begins making up stories, and her confabulations become more grandiose and preposterous with each cognitive intrusion.

Director Robert Ashton has assembled a talented cast of actors who are blessed with exceptional comedic timing for Albion Theatre’s production of “Woman In Mind.”  He collaborates with Emily Baker as Susan, and a troupe of talented supporting players to create the quirky and zany characters who live in Susan’s brain. Ashton’s nimble blocking allows his actors to do what they do best, make the audience laugh, though his methodical use of Erik Kuhn’s simple garden set design.

Baker runs an acting marathon in her role as Susan. She is on stage engaging with her real and imaginary families throughout the entire production. She spectacularly juggles all of Susan’s unfolding confabulations keeping the audience guessing until the final scene. She dexterously manages the difficult role skillfully and keeps Ashton’s blocking rhythm intact. Her functional cognitive decline from the closed head injury and her made up stories are tragically funny.

The remaining cast all deliver top notch comedic performances as the absurdly kooky characters living in Susan’s mind. Danny Brown, Isaiah Di Lorenzo, Matt Hanify, Joseph Garner, Ryan Lawson-Maeske, Susan Wylie, and Sarah Vallo all farcically fill the roles as Susan’s doctor, and her real and imaginary families. Each delivers a phenomenally fearless performance, especially Di Lorenzo, Garner, Vallo, and Brown who have the most comedically taxing roles.

Costume designer Tracey Newcomb digs into the eccentricities of each of Susan’s confabulated characters. Her ridiculous costumes build in the peculiarities of Susan’s made-up characters and their unfolding stories. Her silly designs add to the levity and create some really funny moments all on their own. Jacob Baxley’s sound effects and Michelle Zielinski’s lighting design intensifies the humor, accentuates the action, and elevates the storytelling.

Albion Theatre’s "Woman In Mind” is a mad, absurd comedy that works on every level. It is a marvelous collaboration between director, actors, and technical crew to enrich comedic storytelling. Emily Baker is fantastic in the insanely demanding role as Susan. She leads this company with a workhorse-like performance that affords the supporting cast the opportunity to create ridiculously droll characters.

"Woman in Mind” continues its run at the Kranzberg Black Box Theater through June 23, 2024. More information is available at

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