Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

Hysterics, a Thought Provoking Drama of Hysteria

Also see Richard's reviews of Varekai and Hedwig & the Angry Inch

The Kaliyuga Arts Company recently presented Hysterics: Two Solo Performance Pieces, comprised of Canadian playwright Jill Dowse's X:The Rise and Fall of an Asylum Star and Up From the Ground, written and peformed by Dan Carbone.

X: the Rise & Fall of an Asylum Star stars Jennifer Taggart in a tour-de-force role of 15 year old Augustine, a patient at the infamous Salpetriere Asylum in 19th Century Paris. The 60 minute solo act is based on a true story. Augustine was a patient of Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot and he transformed her into Mademoiselle "X," who performed her fits for the entertainment of the bourgeois audience at chic Tuesday lectures of the doctor. The artist, using a hospital bed, some small props and an accordion, tells the audience how she was taken at the age of 13 to this notorious asylum because of her fits. Augustine tells of her harrowing experience of being raped at this age by the boyfriend of her mother. She acts out the scene in disturbing detail. She also uses the accordion to sing several songs that are reminiscent of a Kurt Weill melody. The lyrics are clever and biting.

Jennifer Taggart runs through a range of human emotions during her solo act. She is hysterical and giddy. There are moments of pathos, reflection and anguish. The artist holds the audience spellbound by her amazing acting ability.

Steve Patterson directs this United States premiere and it is right on the mark.

John Sowle directs the Dan Carbone piece, giving it fast pacing. This is an enthralling night of intellectual theater. Up From the Ground premiered at the 1998 Fringe Fest and is given a new production here. The 25 minute solo piece is about a warped Southern farmer who is a combination of Buck Owens, Billy Bob Thornton and Jonathan Winters. Carbone comes out in overalls to tell his "Twilight Zone" type story about a strange flower that is growing in the family corn field. His mother and father believe it is from the devil since Jesus would never plant such a tall thing. Carbone sees a most beautiful girl in the center of the tall flower, and he wants everyone to see this astonishing plant. He believes people will come from far and near just to see this lovely plant. A little boy who is hunting for toads comes into the field and tells the farmer that it is just an old sunflower plant. Carbone takes the role of all characters and he is hysterical and heartbreaking in this one man show.

Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema

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