In director Tom Heckert’s note in the program for “Woman in Mind,” he quotes playwright Alan Ayckbourn’s thoughts when writing the play: “I wanted to take an audience into a person’s mind and let them experience (to some extent) what it must be like to lose contact with reality. Initially the process is quite amusing, but as panic sets in it becomes increasingly alarming.”
“Woman in Mind” follows Susan (Amy M. Lane), who wakes up after receiving a head injury in her garden, and who realizes, quite quickly, that something is not right with her. She is seeing things that other people don’t see, experiencing things no one else around her is experiencing, and, as Ayckbourn says, at first, it seems humorous — until it starts taking very dark turns.
Ayckbourn’s script is a typically British play — very dense, very wordy, quite long. It is not a lighthearted romp, but quite a solemn affair. The play gets tangled up in itself quite often, and needs a deft hand to carry it off well.
’Woman in Mind’
WHERE: Schenectady Civic Players, 12 S. Church St.
WHEN: Through March 24
HOW MUCH: $15
MORE INFO: 382-2081, www.civicplayers.org
Unfortunately, Heckert’s production was not entirely successful.
There are good things, however. Lane’s Susan was a delight to watch, which is lucky for us, as she did the brunt of the work. She was entirely believable as a woman losing her mind, torn between two realities and trying to make sense of what was happening to her.
Victor L. Cahn, as her somewhat mild-mannered doctor Bill, was also very good. Cahn always has the stage presence needed to give the shows he appears in some much-needed gravitas. Joan Justice and Ben McCauley, as Susan’s sister-in-law and son, also handled the material masterfully and managed to find the comedy in the piece.
The rest of the cast seemed to stumble a bit. It was very difficult, for example, to ascertain whether Alysson M. Kelly, playing Susan’s daughter Lucy, was overplaying the brainless ingénue on purpose to show what it was like in Susan’s mind, or was just overacting. Marty O’Connor’s Gerald, Susan’s husband, didn’t seem to have a connection with either the words he was saying or Susan, making the scenes between them especially stagey. However, again, it was difficult to tell how much of this was on purpose, to show the disconnect between the characters, or how much of it was a function of acting.
Mary Koslowski’s garden set was beautiful — understated, light, and realistic, with a working fountain — a lovely touch. Beth Ruman’s costumes were similarly beautiful and worked well both with the actors and the set.
Overall, it was a good effort, but fell flat, whether with how heavy the script is, or the strengths of the actors, or the ability of the director to pull it all together. Unfortunately, it seemed to leave many of the audience members as confused as Susan, with her head injury, as they left the theater.