Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Off the Wall confronts challenge of play about depression, suicide


words,” said Ms. Gruenert.

The text on its own can be “horrific,” she admitted, but she began to see Ms. Kane’s penchant for gallows humor.

One of Ms. Gruenert’s favorite lines is, “The doctor told me I have eight minutes to live, after I had been in the waiting room for a half-hour.”

During her short life, playwright Kane had three original plays produced, including the controvers­ial “Blasted,” which was riddled with scenes of explicit sexual acts, rape, eye gouging and cannibalis­m.

In Kane’s obituary in The Guardian, Lyn Gardner wrote of “Blasted,” “Critics were quick to condemn it as ‘a feast of filth’ although some were brave enough to subsequent­ly revise their opinion, noting that … Kane’s play was written in the bleached language of truth and poetry.”

The language of “4.48 Psychosis” takes many twists and turns, but it’s hard not to see the whole as a suicide note, which is written into the script:

The New York Times’ obituary reported that Kane was found hanged in her hospital room, where she was being treated for depression.

“I truly believe that when Sarah Kane wrote this, she had made the decision to commit suicide,” Ms. Gruenert said. “It was her explanatio­n to her parents, her exlovers, her current lover. … They spent years trying to get her to understand the medical point of view, and now she was saying, ‘No. This is what I want. Understand me.’”

“4.48 Psychosis” was first performed in London in 2000, with a cast of three. “It is a powerful, almost unbearable evening … of piercing poetry, humor and pain,” The Guardian of London declared.

The actors for Off the Wall — Siovhan Christense­n, Erika Cuenca and Tammy Tsai — began their journey to the stage by exploring movement before text, which makes this production unlike anything Off the Wall has previously attempted, but “I think it’s a marvelousl­y creative way to approach this play,” Ms. Gruenert said.

In July, the company celebrates 10 years of producing challengin­g works, beginning in Washington County and, in recent years, on Main Street in Carnegie. “4.48 Psychosis” fits with Off the Wall’s mission statement, which includes “nurturing, challengin­g, inspiring and empowering women theater artists from our area and beyond.”

The play, which runs 65 minutes without intermissi­on, also presents a challenge unlike any the company has faced.

When it debuted, critics labeled it “inyour-face theater,” and it’s definitely that, said Mrs. Gruenert.

And she added one more thing: “It’s not for the faint of heart.”

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