Hip Shot: McPherson Madness
Studio Theatre – Stage 4
Friday, July 19, 7 p.m.
Sunday, July 21, 2:30 p.m.
Saturday, July 27, 6:30 p.m.
They Say: "Dreama’s struggles as an Occupyer and mother reveal the life of an unusual activist and the intricacies of a tent city. With a major protest looming, troubles at camp and a child, Dreama must decide where her allegiances lie."
Brett's Take: The Occupy movement didn't begin so long ago, but it already seems like a part of history. Of course, the troubles it was responding to are as current as ever, and it's actually still going on, but for any Fringegoer who wants a look at what it was really like in those few months when D.C. was Occupied, McPherson Madness comes to us straight from the inside.
Playwright Kelly Canavan was a frequent spokesperson and leading voice of the Occupation in McPherson Square. Her Rabble Crew Productions bills McPherson Madness as "a very private story in a very public place," and the play remains true to that focus: what Occupy was like for the people doing the Occupying. If you come seeking understanding of the protest's origins, intentions, or wider meaning, you'll leave untutored; the play largely skips over the politics in favor of looking closely at Dreama, a central organizer who has a lot in common with Canavan herself.
Dreama has two incarnations, perhaps symbolizing the dual public/private nature of living at Occupy: her "Info Dreama" self played by sweet-natured Jen Bevan, and her regular "Dreama" self by the harder-edged Tina Ghandchilar. She has one very hard decision to make, tearing her in these two directions: Should she go home to her five-year old son, as encouraged by her mother and doctor? Or should she stay at Occupy, fighting for a better world for that son, depended on by throngs of rowdy, often immature young men, and feeling, for once in her life, awake and useful? (Guys outnumber gals so greatly that Dreama takes to calling it the "cockupation.")
The play offers a series of slice-of-life vignettes, interspersed with protest chants, building toward Dreama's eventual decision and its emotional fallout. It's most fascinating when zooming in on the contradictory natures of the kinds of folks who would camp out for weeks to protest: self-martyring Boston fireman Tim (Sha Golanski), caring but unstable Tracy (Sean James), "de-escalators" Dan (Taylor Hall) and Sean (Erik Lipscomb), who seem to be unable to speak without making fun of the very movement they're a part of. With this cohort, the play could be twice as long and still have psychological ground to cover.
Observant, theatrical, and somehow casual under the deft direction of Lynnie Raybuck, McPherson Madness features a number of capable nonactors who were there. The sense that they and Canavan bring, of having lived in, loved, and questioned the movement, is the best part of this narrow-focus drama.
See it if: You think all the Occupiers were lazy, deluded, heroic, or in any way of one mind and all alike.
Also see it if: You were there; former Occupiers in the audience seemed to love this honest presentation of their experience.
Skip it if: You want to get fired up or you want to get explanations.