Anna, in the Darkness/The Happiness of Schizophrenia | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Anna, in the Darkness/The Happiness of Schizophrenia

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Anna, in the Darkness and The Happiness of Schizophrenia, Dream Theatre Company, at Holy Covenant United Methodist Church. This troupe says it's committed to breaking down the fourth wall--to "reviving a long-forgotten theatrical tradition." That suggests it's ignoring most everything in noncommercial theater over the past four decades. Still, if you're aiming for immediacy, putting solo actors in the middle of a tight ring of audience members is a good start.

Unfortunately, the performers and playwrights involved in this double bill too often mistake emotional freneticism for immediacy. In The Happiness of Schizophrenia writer-performer Anthony Wills Jr. seems to want to portray various types of mental illness while exploring his own fear of slipping into madness. Despite a commanding presence, Wills overacts to such an extreme that his portraits of schizophrenics become stereotypical and condescending. Rather than inviting the audience into his own experience, he puts simulated mania and paranoia on sordid display at a nearly unmodulated high emotional pitch.

Rebecca Lincoln fares better in Jeremy Menekseoglu's Anna, in the Darkness, portraying a beleaguered southern schoolteacher accused of being a satanist for allowing her students to read horror fiction. Anna has a certain pathetic vulnerability that allows for moments of real poignancy even as she admits to atrocious acts in response to her persecution. But neither her performance nor Menekseoglu's script evolves, resulting in 40 minutes of oddly static turmoil.

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