Oregon Music News: Oregon’s all-genre music magazine since 2009

01/16/2016

'The Yellow Wallpaper' - CoHo Productions, Opening 1/15/2016

By JOHN RUDOFF / Gallery + review

Script by Sue Mach
Adapted from the short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Conceived by Grace Carter
Directed by Philip Cuomo
CAST (by order of appearance)
Chris Harder..............................................................................................................as John
Grace Carter....................................................................................................as Charlotte
Christy Bigelow........................................................................................................as Jenny
Diana Schultz.......................................................................................................as Woman

“It does not do to trust people too much.” And particularly so, if they plan to do something untoward to you “for your own good.”

This bleak and static little play is a meditation upon a short story of the same name wqritten by Charlotte Perkins Gilman about 1888 and published in 1891; it has some autobiographical origins. The story has been completely redesigned to its great advantage by playwright Sue Mach, in cooperation with Grace Carter, who plays Charlotte, the lead. The questions posed in the original story –difficult enough themselves – blossom in this interpretation as a study of marital relationships, trust, love, and above all the position of artistic work in one's spiritual life and one's identity.

The plot is simple and brutal: an artistic, emotional, and intelligent woman, married to an (apparently) cool and detached physician, is taken by him to a secluded mansion, along with her sister-in-law and her infant, for a 'rest cure' of her hysteria or neurasthenia. Misery ensues.

As in all good dramas, by the end of the play nothing is as it seems in the beginning. Here, the elements of the play, so to speak, are not things, actions, or plans. They are the small vocabulary of human intentions, phrased here as questions: Is the cool and detached physician-husband really so cool? (“If Dr. Spock had emotions, how would they manifest themselves?”) Is this confined, deprived woman the victim of a domineering prig of a husband, or does she have worse tormentors? Is her placid, kind, simpleton sister-in-law more fortunate than she is?

Sue Mach has written an intensely cerebral play. Gilman's 1891 original story has been the soil for several generations of lit-crit, both feminist and beyond; but the more fully-fleshed personae here will (or should) prompt some good or at least difficult after-play discussions.

Each actor in the drama brings breath and warmth to the cooler concerns of the play. But Grace Carter's 'Charlotte' in particular provides a long, complex, and clearly-discernible trajectory in her inner evolution to the final explosion.

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