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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

‘Interrupted’ lacks plot but contains vivid imagery

Published: April 11, 2014
Section: Arts, Etc.

“Interrupted, a Theater Piece in Pieces,” written, directed and choreographed by Sarah Elizabeth Bedard ’14, explores the lives of writers Susanna Kaysen, Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton and is based on the best-selling memoir “Girl, Interrupted.”

Performed in the Spingold Theater from Friday, April 4 through Sunday, April 6, this play skillfully portrays the horrors, extremities and pain of how these mental illnesses plagued the lives of these women. These illnesses ranged from Kaysen’s multiple-personality disorder to Plath and Sexton’s manic-depression disorders, as well as their constant suicidal tendencies.

The play takes place in a mental hospital. The story not only focuses on mental illness, but also on the complex character dynamics and relationships that each character has with one another. The continued relationships that evolve between Susanna (Alex Johnson MFA ’14), Nellie (Caley Chase ’16), Lisa (Bedard), Sylvia (Liz Tancredi MFA ’14) and Polly (Sara Schoch MFA ’14) seem to damage them even more, as each character feeds off another’s energy. Susanna, the main character, is the first character to come on stage, already with a bottle of vodka while dancers surround her like angels. But from the start, however, the audience became confused.

One problem with this play is that there was not really a concrete exposition. There is no character introduction—if it wasn’t for the fact that I learned about Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton from my previous poetry classes, I would have never known who these characters were nor would I value the significance of the mental illnesses in their lives.

Additionally, there really isn’t a plot to the story—it seemed as though the scenes were just moving along through each character’s different struggle with mental illness, but there was no background information provided. One exception was a brief scene announcing what depersonalization is (a dissociative disorder in which the sufferer feels as though she is disconnected from her own body). This made the play drag at points. There was also no variation in intensity, due to the tragic portrayal of mental illness, which stayed constantly frightening.

Throughout the play, Kaysen experiences many traumatic episodes. The scenes were dramatic, with strobe lights, intense music and a great amount of audible pain coming from Kaysen’s mouth. It seemed very realistic. I felt fascinated but also a bit afraid, nervous and not sure whether to stay in my seat or save the character on stage. There were so many long, melodramatic acts, like the ones of Kaysen’s outbursts, that it was hard to really pinpoint the main turning point of the play, especially since there were few instances of dialogue. The conversations also didn’t really flow very well and jumped from scene to scene with no clear direction or with any major point in mind.

Despite these problems, the actors were good at staying true to the scene. The actions portrayed in the outbreaks already seemed very uncomfortable to the audience. An example of this was when the actress looked as if she were dancing but also hitting herself. Yet the mania conveyed through this scene did not seem overdone. Even when the actresses started falling onto the floor a couple of times throughout the play, in none of the instances did the exaggerated tumbles look fake. Therefore, even though the play’s underlying story was a bit vague, “Interrupted” deserves praise for portraying challenging scenes so vividly.