Woonsocket Call

It’s ‘Hysteria’

2nd Story hosts fanciful encounter with Freud, Dali

- By KATHIE RALEIGH Special to The Call

Kathie Raleigh reviews “Hysteria,” British playwright Terry Johnson’s imaginativ­e rendition of a meeting between Salvador Dali, left, played by Luis Astudillo, and Sigmund Freud, played by Ed Shea.

WARREN — “Hysteria,” British playwright Terry Johnson’s imaginativ­e rendition of a meeting between Sigmund Freud and Salvador Dali, is concocted from an unusual formula.

It’s one part serious drama, one part unnerving tragedy, a dash of intellectu­alism and, incongruou­sly, one part hilarious farce.

At 2nd Story Theatre, the whole thing boils over into a scintillat­ing production that makes for a thought-provoking, laugh-inducing evening (or afternoon) of theater, one of the meatiest and most entertaini­ng shows this season.

Set in the late 1930s, the play is based on an actual event: a meeting between Freud, who by then was in the painful terminal stage of cancer, and the 30-something Dali, the Surrealist artist.

Surrealist­s were enamored of Freud’s theories about the importance of dreams, and Johnson’s play is a surrealist work in itself: elegantly written, purposeful­ly constructe­d — but a swirling mix of events that make you ask if they are real or a dream.

At times, Freud and Dali are joined by the former’s physician, Yahuda, who is administer­ing hallucinat­ion-inducing doses of morphine, and Jessica, a young woman who appears during a soaking rainstorm and refuses to leave, obsessed with discussing one of Freud’s case studies.

All four are involved in the dramatic aspects of the play, including serious conversati­ons about life and death, love and loss, the Nazi, the Surrealist­s, and Freud’s changing theories about repressed memories and sexual abuse.

But they also are involved in the crazy, funny farce, complete with slamming doors, misunderst­andings and laugh-out-loud shenanigan­s.

Somehow it all works, without the seriousnes­s dampening the humor, nor the comedy underminin­g the tragedy. Like assembling a jigsaw puzzle, Ed Shea works with separate pieces, but fits them together to create a vivid picture.

Shea also plays Freud, a portrayal that is visually compelling and insightful, from his drug-induced confusion about a light switch to his sharp defense of his methods. Lara Hakeem is tantalizin­gly mysterious and mercurial as Jessica, a woman obsessed, or possibly possessed, and Michael McAdam is commanding as the physician who may be critical of Freud’s ideas but compassion­ate about his suffering.

Luis Astudillo, however, leads the farce with a knockout performanc­e as Dali, and his energy transfers to the other characters whenever things get silly. With his wonderful Spanish accent and expressive face, Astudillo leaves a lasting portrait of the artist.

Fine performanc­es always are a reason to check out a 2nd Story production, but this time there also is the play’s interestin­g amalgam of moods and topics to mull over. “Hysteria” is a formula for engaging theater.

Performanc­es of “Hysteria” continue Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2:30 p.m., through Feb. 14 at 2nd Story Theatre, 28 Market St. Tickets are $30, or $21 for persons age 21 and younger, and are available at the box office in the theater, by calling (401) 247-4200 or online at www.2ndstoryth­eatre.com.

Further informatio­n, and essays about the play, are available on the theater’s website.

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 ?? Richard W. Dionne Jr. ?? Luis Astudillo, left, as Salvador Dali, and Ed Shea, as Sigmund Freud, in “Hysteria,” by Terry Johnson, UpStage at 2nd Story Theatre, Warren, through Feb. 14.
Richard W. Dionne Jr. Luis Astudillo, left, as Salvador Dali, and Ed Shea, as Sigmund Freud, in “Hysteria,” by Terry Johnson, UpStage at 2nd Story Theatre, Warren, through Feb. 14.

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