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4.48 Psychosis
a Drama
by Sarah Kane

COMPANY : Vernal & Sere Theatre
VENUE : The Robert Mello Studio [WEBSITE]
ID# 5345

SHOWING : September 14, 2018 - October 07, 2018



"4.48 Psychosis" received its premiere in the first year of this century. Eighteen years later and its subjects of mental illness, heartache, and pathological grief are still vastly misunderstood and misrepresented. Yet every one of us has experienced suffering and despair. These scenes usually take place in seclusion - in the privacy of our homes, office buildings, or cars as we wait motionless in traffic. Thus depression might be defined by this simple paradox: It is everywhere and it is nowhere.

We are thrilled to announce that Vernal & Sere Theatre’s next production is an attempt to make seen what is unseen: to thrust mental illness into the theatrical space and experience it firsthand, viscerally, so that together we might process the reality of depression.

"Validate me / Witness me / See me / Love me"

The final play by the groundbreaking and inimitable Sarah Kane, "4.48 Psychosis" is an exploration inside the mind of a young woman who, suffering from mental illness, determines to commit suicide. Yet while the mind is both subject and setting, the heart of this play is a love story: between a patient and doctor, between a woman and herself, and finally between performers and audience.

But its ultimate act of love might be found in the very nature of its main character’s dilemma, which should not be seen as a struggle to die, but as a tooth-and-nails fight to live.

Cast Kathrine Barnes
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


Guts and Insides
by playgoer
Friday, September 28, 2018
Sarah Kane’s "4.48 Psychosis" is more of a poem or meditation than a play. Written shortly before the playwright committed suicide at age 28, it seems to explore the journey from depression to attempted suicide to treatment to successful suicide. In the Vernal and Sere production, four actresses take on the words. Oftentimes, they’re paired onstage, with the text alternating between the pairs. It’s splendidly staged by director Sawyer Estes and acted with devastating conviction by Kathrine Barnes, Erin Boswell, Erin O’Connor, and Madelyn Wall.

The set consists of two four-paned plate glass windows on wheels and four metal office chairs. The floor and walls of the playing space are painted gray. The windows, floor, and walls are scrawled on during the course of the play. Projections (designed by Michael Frederick) display on the back wall, with an LED clock display of "4:48" shown at the start of each scene. (4:48 AM to 6:00 AM is the time during which Ms. Kane believed she saw things most clearly.) Between scenes, the LED display cycles rapidly through numerals, accompanied by a soundtrack that gets less raucous and more soothing as the show goes on.

Before the play proper starts, the audience trickles in as the four actresses move to a percussive musical soundtrack and the LED display ticks up to 4:48. Their movements at times suggest a marching band, at times the scurrying of a mouse, and at times the stamping of a horse’s hoof. At intervals, they gather in a clump as one of them wails, then they writhe and recite in unison the numbers two and seven. Why two and seven? If you count backwards from 100 by sevens, you end up at two. We see the actresses do this later in the play, with no apparent explanation. (Maybe a concentration exercise?)

Another somewhat baffling element is what starts the text of the play: one actress (a doctor, apparently) asking another (a patient, apparently) what she has done to make her friends so supportive. This same sequence is repeated near the end of the play, after the women have bemoaned the fact that they feel friendless and alone and long for any human connection. Is it irony? Is it the doctor projecting her own circle of supportive friends onto the patient? Is it referring to unseen friends who have committed the patient to a medical institution? To some audience members, the whole thing will seem baffling.

Sawyer Estes has blocked the show with a lot of action (even pills dropping from the ceiling!), and Lindsey Sharpless’ lighting design heightens that action. The chairs and the two window wagons get moved frequently. Costumes start out as white sneakers, light pants with tears near the knees, and darker, long-sleeved tops. Tops get removed during the show, leaving two actresses bare-breasted for one scene, before having their breasts bound for the remainder of the show (useful for a scene of simulated rape).

This is experimental theatre, rehearsed for five months before being presented to the public. I was fully prepared to find it pretentious and overwrought, but the intense sincerity of the actresses won me over. Vernal & Sere seems to have found its wheelhouse with a plotless production that relies on atmosphere and acting skill to make its impact. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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