Jeremy Guiterrez & Ryan Watson in Takin’ Over The Asylum.
Photo-The Alley Theater
Takin’ Over The Asylum
Written by Donna Franceschild
Directed by Kathi E.B. Ellis
Review by Kate Barry
Entire contents are copyright © 2015 Kate Barry. All rights reserved
It’s no secret that The Alley Theatre specializes in works off the beaten track. Shows at The Alley have often catered to unique audiences who may be a little weird, a little avant-garde and even a little nerdy. This particular troupe has never failed to present obscure material that otherwise would go unnoticed by other local companies. Currently, The Alley Theatre is presenting Takin’ Over the Asylum, a comedy-drama based on a British mini-series, which starred Ken Stott (The Lord of the Rings) and a young David Tennant of Dr. Who fame. This particular production of the stage adaptation provides a dramatic tone to The Alley Theater’s season of radio plays, superheroes and slasher-musicals.
The play addresses major issues that affect the mental health community including low funding for facilities and unfair conditions for patients both in and out of treatment. Playwright Donna Franceschild is an advocate for mental health reform and uses this work to raise awareness for a cause that is very misunderstood. Clearly, this show’s goal is to show patients not as victims or as caricatures but simply as people. Meg Caudill portrays Rosalie’s Obsessive Compulsion Disorder by cleaning while slowly revealing that her anxieties are grief related. At first, Caudill’s constant scrubbing and wiping provides moments of levity, but she is also sure to hold on to the root of her condition. Megan Adair gives Francine a mouse-like apprehension, and she is so matter-of-fact in her character’s self-destructive behavior that she builds genuine pathos in the performance. As delusional schizophrenic Fergus, Spencer Korcz is just lively and likable enough to be missed within the character’s tragic demise. Additional kudos to Mr. Korcz for displaying one of the more convincing accents as well.
Jeremy Gutierrez gives strong support as “Ready” Eddie, a wannabe radio DJ. Gutierrez provides a surrogacy between audience and stage as he discovers the harsh realities that lie within mental health care. As the manic Campbell, Ryan Watson brings the strongest performance; buzzing about the stage, he builds a unity among his fellow patients while playing a catchy tune or two. Watson rips right through Campbell’s ramblings and appears to never stop for a breath, exhibiting great comedic timing as well.
The Alley Theater’s stage is small and limited, but the beauty of the Alley is that they utilize the space really well. The play revolves around a small radio station within the confines of the mental health institution, with the majority of the action happening within that portion of the set. Some of the strongest moments happen there, which is problematic due to obstructed sight lines. As this play was originally written for the screen, perhaps some things just can’t be easily translated to stage.
Regardless if you’ve seen the mini-series, Takin’ Over The Asylum brings to light real life issues pertaining to mental health patients who struggle everyday.
Takin’ Over the Asylum
August 27-September 5 @ 7:30pm
The Alley Theater
633 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202
[box_light]Kate Barry earned her Bachelors in English with a Theater minor from Bellarmine University in 2008. She has worked with many different companies around town including Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, Finnigan Productions and you have probably purchased tickets from her at that little performing arts center on Main Street as well. In 2012, her short play “PlayList” won festival favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. She has written for Leo Weekly and TheatreLouisville.com as well. Thanks for reading![/box_light]