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CHESTER BAILEY Last Night
Last Edit: sergius 09:05 am EST 11/19/22
Posted by: sergius 09:01 am EST 11/19/22

Imagination invents the soul. CHESTER BAILEY, like many plays about psychiatrists and their mentally ill patients, advances the truism that psychoses and creative genius often share a border. The play takes place in 1945 and you could easily think it was written then as well; it’s well made AND well worn. What’s most appealing here is seeing Reed and Ephraim Birney, father and son, find each in the other so easefully. There’s a tenderness between them that’s lovely to watch. But the play’s a hoary thing: a psychiatrist must divest a patient of his delusions—we’re never told why—and becomes captivated by them. This, however, is an infinitely richer subject than is depicted here. CHESTER BAILEY tells us that there are perhaps advantages to delusional thinking beyond its adaptive function. Yes, of course. But the horrors that usually occasion the development of these states are too often subsumed by a romantic view of their imaginative dimensions, exalted, as they are here, as a kind of art. Plays like this—they’re practically a genre—routinely heroicize suffering. The hunter gets captured by the game, but the game is still game.
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