The audience is herded into a large room surrounded by plastic sheeting in The Hypocrites production of “4.48 Psychosis, ” currently at the Steppenwolf Garage. The implied message is clear; the goings-on inside will bring to mind a messy but well-planned murder. You, the gawking spectator, are safe; that woman crouched by the bed isn’t. Written five years ago by the British playwright Sarah Kane, it is a frantic, freaky, scribbly screed wherein a young woman’s will to die becomes a dominant, instinctual quest. The form is more diary-like than narrative, and in terms of its content, “Psychosis” is no hypothetical experiment; Kane hanged herself, at twenty-eight, not long after finishing the play, which gives the work a gruesome sort of heft and voyeuristic appeal. How do you conjure a thoroughly depressed, suicidal state of mind on stage? How do you make it tangible? Director Sean Graney has constructed a kind of surround-sound diorama in which you, the audience, stand and bear witness (the running time is just over an hour) to the demise of this unnamed narrator. Graney has punched the stream-of-consciousness dialogue with Technicolor images that reflect the odd details of dreams and heighten the script’s gallows humor. It is thoroughly engaging in that regard; for a show about suicide, one that actually depicts suicide, this production is remarkably easy to swallow—which is perhaps its biggest flaw. For all its inventiveness (the staging includes two “rest” breaks in which the actors break character, eat from an orange, wink at the audience), the experience leaves little, if any, emotional residue. (Nina Metz)
This production is now closed.