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Home / Articles / Arts / Theater & Stage Reviews /  The Origin of Penis Envy

The Origin of Penis Envy

December 12, 2007, 12:00 am
By
Hysteria marks the return of Theaterwork, in a big phallic way.

Theaterwork returns with a magnificent rendition of English playwright Terry Johnson's coruscating homage to the brainchild of penis envy. Hysteria is the tale of exiled Sigmund Freud (Jack Sherman) shortly after his escape from***image1*** Austria in 1938. He is in the midst of hallucinatory imaginings about the end of existence, hopelessness and the fear and trembling that attack all aesthetic atheistic non-believers who have guilt-associated distortions.

Then Freud is visited by fragmentary personified concoctions of his friend and doctor Abraham Yahuda (Dan Friedman), Jessica (Jody Hegarty), a mysterious unknown female representation of a failed case study, and Salvador Dali (Adam Harvey). Dali and Freud did meet during this time in history, but the actual story is uneventful in comparison to what Johnson imagines.

Hegarty is surrounded by three domineering male actors, innumerable phallic antiques strewn across the set and faces multiple challenges, including jumping generations, psychosomatic materializations and coming to consciousness as a figment of Freud's duplicitous remembrances of hypocrisy. Sherman's Freud is a sterile, over-intellectualizing aging, harbinger
of arrogant denial.

From time to time, the competition between Hegarty and Sherman for supremacy over the depraved psychologist's soul yields brilliant moments. ***image2***Other times, both could use a break to remember what they're supposed to be doing. Sherman maintains himself as a cold-hearted, anti-heroic, anal-retentive erect asshole and lends support to his antagonist as she shows us what an abused, confused, seductively innocent maniac does to herself. If she were a great actress, Hegarty would strip naked without hesitation when the script calls for it. This would ease her fumbling nervousness and would set high standards for the rest of the play's sexually derivative underlying disturbance, separating it just enough from the farcical to ring true.

After witnessing Olson's interpretation of this struggle of a tragic, powerful man about to face his ultimate moment of truth, there is no question that Theaterwork leads the way in producing provocative, intelligent and significant theater that's fun to watch. Sound, costumes, blocking and staging come together as the beautiful, original portraits Olson continuously paints for the audience.

Friedman and Harvey are fantastic. Harvey's Dali has the presence, movement and the hilariousness to keep the play fresh at every right moment. He is good despite the fact that his accent is too Italian and incomprehensible and his obsession over the comic excludes the eccentric.

Friedman's Yahuda represents well the Jewish patriarchal archetype that is haunted by both external anti-Semitism and internal self-hatred. Freud was not a good Jew, much less a respectable human being. At a moment when he could have not only healed countless women who were sexually abused by their "genteel" civilized, bourgeois, horny fathers, and also could have done unknown wonders to advance the progress and rights of women by questioning the underpinnings of the psychological foundations of patriarchy, Feud opted for self. His origin of penis envy begins and ends with his hidden truth about rich European fathers sexually abusing their children. It's all about forcing the young to pay for the sins of the father. Perfect for the Christian holiday!

 

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