Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dissocia:A Columbia show outside of Columbia

Profiles Theatre continues its crazy 20th Anniversary Season with the U.S. Premiere of the acclaimed new dark comedy The Wonderful World Of Dissocia by Anthony Neilson, directed by Profiles Associate Artistic Director, Darrell W. Cox. The production opened on March 26 and runs through May 10, 2009, at Profiles Theatre, 4147 N. Broadway.
Of all the shows in Chicago this week, the production of Anthony Neilson’s “The Wonderful World of Dissocia” at Profiles Theatre probably is the most outrageous. It also can claim the title of having the most Columbia College Chicago students or Alumni working on it that is not a Columbia College Chicago production. Refrain from bolting from the theater at intermission, no matter how tempted you might be to escape the chaos, high-pitched noise and shrill burlesque of the first act of "The Wonderful World of Dissocia." For in the quietly breathtaking second act of Scottish playwright Anthony Neilson's drama, you will find a profoundly moving look at what it means to be a young woman in the throes of clinical depression. And you will realize that what the writer has done here is to perfectly echo the raging mood swings of the manic-depressive mind.
The Wonderful World of Dissocia is a colorful and exciting off-kilter trip that follows Lisa Jones in search of one lost hour that has tipped the balance of her life. The inhabitants of the wonderful world she finds herself in - Dissocia - are a curious blend of the funny, the friendly and the brutal. This is a hugely original play, both magical and moving, that confirmed Anthony Neilson as one of the major voices in contemporary British theatre.
When we first meet Lisa (Somer Benson in a performance of overwhelming honesty), she seems to be something of a latter-day Alice in Wonderland. From talking to Dr. Victor Hesse (one of several skillful turns by Bob Pries), a distinctly quirky Swiss watch repairman who shows up at her doorway, she begins to sense that she somehow lost an hour of time during a flight, and this has had a distressing effect on her life. And he suggests that Lisa can reclaim that hour by setting out on what becomes an increasingly insane journey into a bizarre underworld.
As the play goes on we see the clock of Lisa's mind seems to get wound more tightly and irregularly, she encounters a pair of passive-aggressive Tweedledum and Tweedledee characters (Eric Burgher, Columbia faculty and grad and Joe Jahraus), a sadistic Goat (Pries), a masochistic "stand-in" (the zany Jessie Fisher), an abused jackal-like creature (Jeremy Lee Cudd Columbia grad as well), a nutcase Oathtaker (Barb Stasiw, who also is ideal as a nurse), and a sexy waitress-dominatrix (the very watchable Sarah Loveland), who serves up hot dogs bearing decidedly phallic implications.
The whimsy escalates to raunchy horror, and goes beyond tolerable to a screechy, mind-numbing, circuslike cacophony. And then the first act is over. When the lights come up on the second act the stage is empty except for a hospital bed. Lisa, who clearly has crashed, lies in a drugged sleep, with nurses regularly making sure she swallows her pillows and remains subdued.
Benson's evocation of Lisa's resignation, slow rebellion and aching sadness -- all exacerbated by the selfish (or self-preserving) actions of her sister and boyfriend (expertly played by Fisher and Cudd) -- is extraordinary as Neilson's play takes on an almost Beckettlike otherworldliness.
“The Wonderful World Of Dissocia is one of the most unique, unorthodox and surprising pieces of theatre I have ever read,” says Profiles Associate Artistic Director and Director of this emotional rollercoaster Darrell W. Cox. “I have long been an admirer of Anthony Neilson's work--a fearless Scotsman, who was at the forefront of the revolutionary British in-yer-face theatre movement in the early '90's. With 'Dissocia', one of his most recent plays, Mr. Neilson is no longer content with expanding the boundaries of experiential theatre. This new work now brings a blast of fresh, emotionally truthful and physically alive theatre to the stage that is truly remarkable. We [at Profiles] are honored to be introducing this play to American audiences and promise an experience that will be unlike anything in our twenty year history at Profiles.”
Boldly directed by Darrell W. Cox (with an ingenious set by Thad Hallstein, inventive costumes by Ricky Lurie and colorful lights by Jess Harpenau(an all Columbia Design team)), this is one of the largest, most elaborate productions in Profile's history. And if you stick around you will not be disappointed.
The Wonderful World Of Dissocia received its lauded World Premiere at the Edinburgh International Festival and went on to win every major category at the Critics’ Awards for Theatre in Scotland including Best New Play and Best Production. Mr. Neilson’s award-winning play subsequently played to sold-out houses and wowed audiences and critics alike at the National Theatre of Scotland and at the Royal Court in London.
This is the fourth production of Profiles Theatre’s 20th Anniversary Season following their acclaimed productions of GREAT FALLS by Lee Blessing, THE THUGS by Adam Bock and MEN OF TORTUGA by Jason Wells. The final production of the season will be the World premiere of GRACELAND by Ellen Fairey.

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