By Claire DeMarco, ‘Burgh Vivant
Mental illness and suicide are very serious subjects but injecting dark humor into the conversation often allows one to avoid coming face to face with those issues. Conversation about these concerns are presented in the world premiere of “The C-Word” by Olivia LeSuer.
College-age Grace (Audrey Nigh) has recently come home to her mother, Mary (Katelyn Donnelly) after an attempted suicide. It soon becomes apparent that Mary seems to have as many emotional problems as Grace as they never seem to speak openly concerning the attempted suicide. They stand apart, skirting the issue in front of them with attempts at comedy and general avoidance.
Grace’s father David (Christian Poach) has been alienated from Grace for fifteen years and now wants to insert himself back into her life. We don’t know why he hasn’t been in the picture but his concern for Grace appears sincere. He is able to encourage Grace to stay with him during her transition back into the real world. But it’s obvious and disconcerting that he doesn’t know much about Grace. “Are you allergic to anything?” “What school did you apply to?” “What are you studying?”
Insecure Mary constantly texts and calls Grace while she’s with her dad, attempting to interfere with this new relationship.
Every time there is a tumultuous situation or avoidance scenario by Mary, Grace or David with each other, their first reaction is to turn on the T.V. Insertions of T.V. clips and commercials (usually funny) help break up the turmoil going on with this dysfunctional family.
The use of the T.V. as an avoidance mechanism for all the characters is a clever technique: Tune in to tune out!
It is hard to imagine how a smoke detector provides an avenue for the start of healing and coming to terms with the serious discussion of suicide and mental illness.
Nigh plays Grace as sometimes insecure, many times belligerent, defensive and unsure.
Donnelly’s range carries her from argumentative to, at times, not even speaking. Even when sitting and seeming to appear calm, she is able to portray any underlying tension by playing with and moving her hands.
Nigh and Donnelly both, especially in quiet moments do not project fully to the audience. It was difficult at times to hear all of their dialogue which lessened the impact of their otherwise good performances.
Poach provides an even performance, sensitive to his daughter’s needs, but stern when necessary.
Scenes occur in either Mary’s living room or David’s with subtle changes on the couch and a few strategically placed plants an indicator of where we are.
LeSuer discussed in her conversation noted in the program concerning mental health issues that there is no end all cure for mental health issues. A lot of recovery is learning to accept it and cope.
“The C-Word” is a production of The Red Masquers at Duquesne University’s Genesius Theater, 600 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15282. It runs from January 29 to February 2, 2020. For more information, click here.