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Critic's Corner

By Emily King
On February 16, 2011

In a shadowy scope speckled with the often faceless remnants of a life just ended, one finds a casualty of suicide awakening after their endeavor has been effectively accomplished.  It is a predetermined universe overflowing with spiritual enumerations, mental jargon and harshly frequent expressions of demolition.  Welcome to "4:48 Psychosis."  

The Viterbo Theatre Department presented the disconcerting play Feb. 3-5 as an intensive collaboration between student actors, dancers and faculty.  Sarah Kane, a British playwright, constructed the piece as her last work.  It debuted one and a half years after Kane hung herself in a London hospital at age 28.  

"4:48 Psychosis" is written and performed from the perspective of someone with clinical depression, an ailment from which Kane suffered.  It is a subjective presentation of depression which many critics have found difficult to separate it from the realities of Kane's life.  

David Greig, Kane's friend and fellow playwright, supposed the title is derivative from 4:48 a.m.; the time Kane often awoke in her depressed condition.  

"4:48 Psychosis" is void of explicit characters, a strict narrative or time-line and certainly does not adhere to any specific theatrical form.  As a result of these factors, the play can be presented in infinite manners.  

In this respect, director David Gardiner crafted a beautiful rendition of the performance which was carried out brilliantly by the Viterbo cast. Visually it was stunning as the actors wisped four translucent screens about the stage and moved with a raw intensity that didn't allow the audience to glance away from the passion existing in front of them. Nikki Balsamo, the choreographer aptly generated movement that flawlessly cohered to the lines of genuine torment belted out by the actors.  In truth, the entirety of the company deserves utmost reverence for their effectual presentation of "4:48 Psychosis."

A woman ventures to return all of the love her boyfriend of 11 years has given her by piling behemoth ruby red bags on a floor.  She also demands that all the love she had given to her boyfriend over the years be returned to her.  So how does he do it? By presenting her with a small purse met with unadulterated contempt, of course.  And how can all of her love fit in such a trite container? These are just some of the questions answered by the La Crosse Community Theatre's production of John Cariani's "Almost, Maine."

An audience member's reaction to all of the answers in this whimsical tale depended upon their personality.  They were either retorted with awe or perhaps a sigh that accompanies the breath of those who fail to find the sense of humor in love lost.

The entire play revolved around the idea that love is, indeed, wrought with humor; especially when we aren't the ones involved.  Watching nine different couples weave the tricky slopes of romance in the icy tundra of Maine evoked the sense of the cumulating Valentine's Day season.

The set is wonderfully and simply beautiful and truly transports the mind to another space.  There are subtle lights that dance with the grace of the aurora borealis as amber stars twinkle overhead.

To be honest, my sense of humor doesn't lend itself to uncomplicated lovey-dovey comedy, but these actors were able to instill a sense of innocence and realism into the scenes.  The couple hours actually became a very enjoyable experience.

Whether in a tavern, sitting at home, out ice-skating, or even sitting on a random park bench, everyone can relate to all of the stages of love represented in this romantic comedy. The La Crosse Community Theatre did an outstanding job capturing the vivacity of the play.  "Almost, Maine" certainly made for some fun dates for those looking to add a little saccharine ambiance to their evening.


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