“AN ATTEMPT TO HEAL IN THE CONTEMPORARY WORLD” written and directed by, DAVID E. TOLCHINSKY- Supported by Northwestern University Center for Interdisciplinary Research in the Arts/Undergraduate Research Assistant Program.
This week, as part of the New York Fringe Festival, I witnessed the premiere of a staged production which transferred from the venerable campus of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. The playwright, Mr. Tolchinsky, directed the New York hires in this somewhat autobiographical account in which the author makes some cameo appearances at the start, middle and epilogue. No doubt he has his reasons for doing so. These reasons elude this reviewer. However, he, wisely engaged the attractive and engaging RILEY AUSTIN SCOTT, to portray him, as Dave in this narrative of a screenwriter, dealing with his wife’s serious and painful physical malady, and his own psychogenic ailment which he cannot describe to his doctor other than things just aren’t right. His wife, Jane, is ably and sympathetically portrayed by ANDREA PETERSON. She also plays with aplomb Dave’s doctor, the scientific partner and spouse to a notorious sex researcher, Wilhelm Reich who was an early apostle of Sigmund Freud, as well as the spouse of” The Incredible Shrinking Man” from the 1957 film conceived by the great sci-fi writer, Richard Matheson.
That, Ms. Peterson is called on to portray that unhappy spouse from Mr. Matheson’s mind to mingle on stage with her unhappy spouse of Dave’s is central to this story’s reflection of the increasing diminishing of her husband’s character, and his overall worth. And all of this is juxtaposed with an historic account of an outcast from Dr. Freud’s inner circle, the aforementioned Wilhelm Reich, who, fled Vienna for America, created a theory of his own which he truly believed rivaled Einstein’s attempt of a unified field theory, and applied it to patients willing to undergo his unusual, to say the least , treatments for an infinite number of ailments, and ultimately wound up incarcerated and died a miserable failure. Such is the basis for the comic elements of this play! I say this with as little irony as possible, for I found the first fifteen minutes of this which ran for 110 to be genuinely amusing and engaging. That it was unable to sustain my keen interest and amusement was no fault of the admirable work of the cast which included, PAUL WEISSMAN, playing multiple roles as Dave’s father, Reich’s patient, Otto Rank, and Reich’s disciple. Tolchinsky’s conception of having SERGIO FUENZALIDA manifest Freud as a Pacino/ Scarface, decidedly elicited laughs from the audience initially and was enacted with comic skill, as were the other characters he provided as Jane’s doctor, and Einstein himself. The highly committed to his characters, PAUL OBEDZINSKI as Dave’s manager, and especially as the Mad-scientist, Reich, deserves more than honorable mention.
What precisely to make of this play I’m not certain I’m able to relate. I’d offer that should you be interested in the historic significance of a sexual researcher’s road that went terribly awry, intermixed with a self absorbed screenwriter’s journey in spousal neglect well worth your exploring, along with the seemingly infinite patience of the spouse and his reluctant awakening to these realities as opposed to incredible shrinking fantasies, then this play’s for you!
FringeNYC, at HB Studios Theater, 120 Bank St. New York City