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Squeamish – Theatre Row (Beckett Theatre), New York

Writer & Director: Aaron Mark

Reviewer: Robert Price

Sharon visits Dr. Schneider on the Upper West Side in the middle of the night, because she is desperate and genuinely scared. She sits in a winged chair with a coffee cup and tells him (us) about the last five months. She hasn’t talked to Dr. Schneider since her birthday, when she reached the age at which her mother committed suicide. She’s been unable to focus on the well-being of her patients and even falls asleep during their sessions, despite her six cups of coffee a day. In July her nephew Eddie comes to visit from Lubbock, TX. He had been struggling with bulimia and razor blades, but when he arrives in New York he’s healthy and has weaned himself off his medications. Sharon starts to follow his example, wondering who she really is without something to numb her. It’s a shock when she finds out that Eddie has killed himself. That’s why she feels compelled to fly to Lubbock without her pills. 

Alison Fraser interprets with vocal acrobatics, bouncing between Sharon’s false New England dialect and her sharp Texan diphthongs. Fraser’s posture is active and forceful in its sudden shifts. She inhabits several characters to interact with in her storytelling. The frenzied jumps from one idea to the next make the first half of Aaron Mark’s full-length monologue crackle with character development, giving us new information from every angle, feeding us breadcrumbs.

When the story ramps toward a linear climax the language grows in complexity. The poetry intensifies and fills the horrors she enacts. Sarah Johnston’s near blackout lighting allows our ears to engage with the music of the speech. Sharon seems to swim in the darkness when the subject matter becomes salacious. Johnston’s simple windowpane displays an unsettling sharpness when the sun begins to rise, and the lamp plays an eerie bell tone when the pull chord clangs against it.

It’s a haunting journey of one’s own imaginings in the semidarkness. Vivid dreamers beware.

Runs until 11 November 2017 | Image: Maria Baranova

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