By Sandi Durell
A small dark dimly lit stage, a comfortable chair, a lamp and a throw blanket set the mood for Squeamish at the Beckett Theatre.
Shortly, Alison Fraser, who plays Sharon, enters and takes a seat in her psychoanalyst’s office. She is a therapist on the Upper West Side. She talks a blue streak, moving from one thought to another, her focus strained to say the least. But what is quickly revealed is that she’s desperate for more meds (anti-depressants) and so much more.
Sharon is a recovering alcoholic (hard to believe she is a therapist – doctor heal thyself!) as she babbles on about her patients, having recently fallen asleep while talking to one of them. She speaks incessantly about her mother who committed suicide – she’s the age now that her mother was when she killed herself. But the main topic centers around her recent visit back to her home town of Lubbock, Texas for the funeral of her nephew who . . . committed suicide.
Aaron Mark (Empanada Loca, Another Medea), the playwright and director, has quite a ghoulish imagination. In her visit with family back home in Texas (her sister Becky, and her brother-in-law Bert, who comes on to her), Sharon also meets her nephew’s girlfriend who sounds like a flower-child, but has a more interesting pastime.
It’s a constant output of free flow chatter; how her doctor wants to keep her medicated but she weaned herself off attempting to find a better way. She oftentimes sounds drunk. Unfortunately, with Alison’s unique speech pattern, she’s sometimes difficult to understand and the results sound like mumbling. Don’t get me wrong, Alison Fraser is a top notch actress as she tackles the several characters with subtle voice changes, all the while remaining in the chair.
In her plight to find her own personal balance, she is quickly absorbed into Cara’s (the nephew’s girlfriend) world of bloodletting. The object is finding the person on the same wave length who rather likes being cut . . . with a knife . . . just a small little sliver. A pleasure most of us don’t crave. The problem is the nephew made too many cuts and wound up bleeding to death. But the kind of cutting Cara talks about (as Sharon relates the morbid details) is more cultish in nature; akin to sexual pleasure as she seeks her own personal balance.
If you’re squeamish, you might feel uncomfortable as she describes her titillating experience of putting her tongue on and into the little sliced and diced sliver and the taste of blood. Seems that Cara has now become a catalyst to a new form of pleasure that Sharon never realized existed but that would now complete her own desires and . . . personal balance! Cheers to Alison Fraser for delivering 100 minutes of this spine-chiller.
This is all very nightmare-ish and, as my show buddy Myra Chanin described it’s Hitchcock-ian! As people do, they often laugh when things become uncomfortable to ease the discomfort . . . and (as Myra so succinctly noted) “the Lemmings laughed!”
Scenic design and lighting by Sarah Johnston
Photos: Maria Baranova
Aaron Mark is just in time for Halloween with this nightmare solo horror play and if you’re not squeamish it’s currently running at the Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row (410 West 42 Street). The running time is 100 minutes.