I’m not convinced that late-eighteenth-century treatments for mental illness, whatever their avowed flaws, involved placing the head of the patient within a cubic wooden frame. Nonetheless, director Chris Riter has come up with some truly disturbing brackets for GreyZelda’s tale of a woman wrongfully consigned to the snake pit. We’re introduced to Rebecca Zellar’s Mary as she sits strapped to a wheelchair, her head visible through the aforementioned frame. A chilling series of strobe-lit screeching tableaus introduces her fellow inmates. From this arresting beginning, though, the production slowly descends into a fairly dreary “This Is Your Crazy Life,” as figures from Mary’s past materialize to engage her within the barren confines of her ward. For all GreyZelda’s manifest desire to push the envelope of theatrical experience, Lanie Robertson’s text remains both frustratingly conventionally minded and almost hilariously melodramatic: I kept waiting for either Mary’s corrupt warder or her cruelly deceptive husband to break out the top hat and waxed moustache. The stock situations aren’t helped by the monotonously high pitch of Mary’s fellows in the ward; whispering repetitively, dragging themselves across the floor, and giggling maniacally, they appear to be auditioning for a part in an old British Hammer horror film. When Elizabeth Styles stops the insanity to take on the part of Stephen Girard, however, she displays the same confident presence as she did in last spring’s “Henry IV” at Stockyards. (John Beer)
This production is now closed.