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Posted at 12:00 PM ET, 07/11/2009

'4.48 Psychosis': The Bitter End

By Nelson Pressley

Sarah Kane's "4.48 Psychosis" comes to the Fringe Festival. (Capital Fringe Festival)
Fringe Festival

"Is this the line for the suicide play?" a young man asked on Seventh Street at the Fringe last night.

It was, and it was a very good line to be in. The "suicide play" is Sarah Kane's 4.48 Psychosis, a harrowing piece of writing from the mind of a talented but deeply depressed woman. The British playwright was 28 when she killed herself in 1999, shortly after completing this drama, and the play's insight into the anger and guilt of the truly desperate will leave you deeply rattled. Yet the brilliance of the Factory 449 production (at the Bodega, a rough upstairs space that's perfect for this show) may also leave you exhilarated.

Kane wrote the play as a kind of stream-of-consciousness monologue, but the London premiere, produced posthumously, divided the script into three voices; at the Fringe, director John Moletress uses 10 actors, and the emotional waves they create are often overwhelming.

The actors stand on wooden chairs throughout -- hanging is part of the grim plan -- with sad-eyed Sara Barker in the center, a bloodless figure in pale blue light. Barker is ferocious as the lead voice, but the ensemble work is what pulls the show off, the way Moletress orchestrates the piercingly acidic lines, the communal howls and the sudden sense of profound isolation. Kane actually wrote some very sharp dialogue in this play, and it particularly helps that Barker's "character" parries darkly with another woman playing her earnest but inept psychiatrist. A relationship glimmers, but the limits of the medical expert in this case are heartbreaking.

Jesse Achtenberg's video design, displayed on monitors strewn about the stage, plunges the audience in right away with some disturbing imagery (the world in flames, a beating heart, etc.). Video plays a big part in the finish, as well, and while the moviemaking is a bit literal, it's awfully smart and expertly timed. Ryan Keebaugh's soundscape is appropriately unsettling, and the noise made by the actors at times becomes absolutely horrifying.

Too much artiness in the delivery, and Kane's searing, uncompromised vision would ring false. The balance during this intense 60 minutes is exquisite, though, and last night long applause brought the actors back for a deserved second bow. So get in line.

-- Nelson Pressley

By Nelson Pressley  | July 11, 2009; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Theater  
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ADDED PERFORMANCE of “4.48 Psychosis” Friday night (7/17) at 12:30 am!

Capital Fringe has added an additional performance of the sold out Factory 449 production of “4.48 Psychosis,” a Best of Fringe pick by The Washington Post, Washington City Paper and DC Theatre Scene.

Only 60 tickets available and go on sale today (Wed. 7/15) at Noon.

Please spread the word to anyone who wasn’t able to get tickets during the sold out run.

Rick Hammerly, co-Artistic Director/producer
Factory 449: a theatre collective

Posted by: rlhammerly | July 15, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

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