Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Review of "The Patient": A Play by Lawrence Kessenich and Doug Holder





THE PATIENT

ADAPTED by Lawrence Kessenich from Short story by Doug Holder

Staged Reading Presented by the Playwright's Platform

Reviewed by Playwright, Mary M. McCullough

The Patient, a play adapted by Lawrence Kessenich from a short story by Doug Holder, has three characters. LEON, a mental health generalist, as he refers to himself, sleeps days in his boarding house room. He is getting a graduate degree in American Literature, while working nights in a mental hospital. His work entails sitting by the bedside of a drugged and bound PATIENT. Other than speaking directly to the audience, his only interactions are with the patient and an overly friendly NURSE who attempts to engage Leon in her social life, outside the hospital. The play raises questions about sanity. When the patient wakes to confront Leon, the patient’s questions and analysis of Leon life threatens Leon’s fragile sense of himself. Leon tells him to go back to sleep but who is really asleep? The patient is more alive and more rational than Leon, asserting that Leon can choose to live differently. He also tells Leon that his boarding house room is a “suicide suite.” Leon, in a beautifully written, poetic monologue, early in the play, confirms he is “dreaming of remote possibilities that are actual dead ends.” Is Leon a suicide candidate? The play leaves one thinking that Leon and the patient are opposite sides of the same coin; and that the coin is about to be flipped. The play is well written and very intriguing.




Mary McCullough is a founder of the  http://www.streetfeetwomen.org, and an accomplished playwright, performer and writer.

Sam Cornish Tribute Reading: Cambridge Public Library: April 28, 2019. Jean Joachim, Doug Holder, Fanny Howe, Charles Coe, Enzo Surin, Molly Watt, Dan Wuenschel, James Cook

(Click on Pic to Enlarge)

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

A New Play: "The Patient" by Lawrence Kessenich and Doug Holder

Paul Victor Walsh (center-as the patient) Greg Hovanesian (as Leon--the mental health worker),
Lis Adams (the nurse).  Presented as a staged reading by the Playwright's Platform of Boston. Imagine working at a psychiatric hospital outside of Boston, and you are stuck with a patient who picks you apart for eight hours on the night shift.
Who in the end would have the upperhand?
Here is a short clip 
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I2Z9ToHN99I


 " Really enjoyed it. It has great potential."    Lauren Elias ( Founder of the Hub Theatre Company--Boston)




Reviewed by Playwright, Mary M. McCullough  Mary McCullough (Co-founder of the Streetfeet Women)  http://www.streetfeetwomen.org

The Patient, a play adapted by Lawrence Kessenich from a short story by Doug Holder, has three characters. LEON, a mental health generalist, as he refers to himself, sleeps days in his boarding house room. He is getting a graduate degree in American Literature, while working nights in a mental hospital. His work entails sitting by the bedside of a drugged and bound PATIENT. Other than speaking directly to the audience, his only interactions are with the patient and an overly friendly NURSE who attempts to engage Leon in her social life, outside the hospital. The play raises questions about sanity. When the patient wakes to confront Leon, the patient’s questions and analysis of Leon life threatens Leon’s fragile sense of himself. Leon tells him to go back to sleep but who is really asleep? The patient is more alive and more rational than Leon, asserting that Leon can choose to live differently. He also tells Leon that his boarding house room is a “suicide suite.” Leon, in a beautifully written, poetic monologue, early in the play, confirms he is “dreaming of remote possibilities that are actual dead ends.” Is Leon a suicide candidate? The play leaves one thinking that Leon and the patient are opposite sides of the same coin; and that the coin is about to be flipped. The play is well written and very intriguing.




Congratulations to Lawrence Kessenich (playwright) and Doug Holder (memoir author) for the 26 minute actors’ reading last night of THE PATIENT: a wonderful story brought powerfully to the stage. I loved the contrasts between monologue, where the young writer character, appeals to audience sympathy for his lonely and hardscrabble life; and dialogue, as he is upstaged by a restrained and sedated mental patient, whom he’s supposed to watch all night—his miserable job. Where the writer has been appealing to “us” to listen and commiserate with his situation, the patient reads his character, even in silence, all too well, and berates him for self-pity: no girl, shacked up in some “suicide suite.” Get a life! Finally a nurse sedates the patient, leaving him silent, while the writer’s eyes fill with tears. I was reminded of that scene in Richard Yates’s REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, where the self-doubting Frank Wheeler is critiqued and exposed by a mental patient on family furlough--arguably the best scene in Sam Mendes’s film version, with Givings, the patient, played by Michael Shannon......DeWitt Henry .... (Founder of Ploughshares Magazine.)



The play takes place in 1985 at a psychiatric hospital outside of Boston....

"-Beautifully written prose (Leon's monologues)"


"This is one of the better plays I've read this season. It's very well done. A psychological sketch with a bit of suspense. I really enjoyed it."

It's very sad, but I really the stark realism of it. Plus, the characters are so distinctively different.

----Pittsburgh New Works Festival
  1. I appreciate the setup - nighttime, nightshift, a kind of "No Exit" hell, yes? Great intensity of the dyadic encounter; one tied up, one free, in a sense, but not, really. Because we're all human. Because sanity/insanity is on a spectrum. Your characters know that. We all have secrets. We all fear being exposed. Having also worked in an inpatient setting (many years ago) as a therapist on an adolescent substance abuse unit, I totally get the fraught nature of this encounter. 
-- Kelly Dumar--- Producer Our Voices Festival of Boston Area Women Playwrights,-- Wellesley College






Sunday, April 21, 2019

Treading the Uneven Road by L.M. Brown






Treading the Uneven Road by L.M. Brown Fomite Publishing, 2019, 190 pages, $15.

Book Review

By Ed Meek

“Follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly,” Kafka said. L.M. Brown is obsessed with the people in a small Irish town in the 80s and 90s. This is her second book, an interconnected collection of short stories that reads like a novel. Brown, who grew up in Ireland, writes with a sure hand the stories of men and women who have dreams and longings, who fall in and out of love with each other, and who harbor secrets that shape their lives. The Irish are known for oppression and suppression and it is the latter that Brown explores.

In our ever-changing multi-media world, our culture offers us many entertainment options. Fiction, with its limitation of words on the page, still manages to captivate us with the writer’s ability to create character in a way that cannot be duplicated in film or television. Brown is particularly adept at bringing a small community of characters to life. She also works within the confines of short stories to keep coming back to aspects of related tales from the point of view of different characters. So, a minor character in one story will be the main character in another. Although Treading the Uneven Road is a collection of stories, because they are all related, the reader comes away with a satisfying feeling that usually only occurs in reading novels. In this sense and in its obsession with the Irish and the complex relationships in their families, she reminds me of Colm Toibin in his great collection Mothers and Sons.

The uneven road (from a line by Yeats) refers to the emotional ups and downs of the characters as they travel along the road of life. In one story a young wife, estranged from her husband, slowly discovers that he is not the person she thought he was. In another, two brothers who dream of going to London to create a business together, are separated when family illness keeps one brother home. Like Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life, complications ensue and the story leads to unexpected twists and turns. Unlike the Frank Capra movie, these stories are often heartbreaking, yet the characters persist. The Irish, as Tom Wolfe liked to say in Bonfire of the Vanities, are a stubborn lot. We don’t give up. Eventually, in these stories, secrets are divulged and characters make amends or come to understand why their friends and lovers acted the way they did.

Brown is also not afraid to tackle the stories that perplex us in our lives. Why does a mother leave her family? Why is a teacher cruel to children and can she be forgiven by a child with whom she was cruel? Why would someone leave her best friend to go and live with an older man who seems completely wrong for her? Why would someone choose to live alone in a strange town?

Some of the difficulties faced by the characters have to do with the way their culture is changing. Young people moving away from their friends and families, a father who has a hard time dealing with a gay son, a teacher who assumes a student with a learning disability is stupid. All of the characters are sympathetic and the secrets in the stories function like mysteries. In addition, the way the author keeps returning to characters reflects back on earlier stories in the book. It’s all written in strong, clean prose.

Today, it sometimes seems as if people are living their lives on their phones and in front of screens and what’s in between takes the form of pauses when we actually talk to people or take a walk in the woods or put down our phone and pick up a fork. In gyms and department stores and even gas stations, televisions draw our attention. People seem to be waking slowly up to the notion that this media onslaught is both addictive and unhealthy. One way out of this is through focusing on art, poetry, theatre, and fiction. In Treading the Uneven Road, L.M. Brown brings us on a welcome journey to an imaginative village in Ireland and introduces us to characters who, like us, follow an uneven road of discovery and understanding.