BWW Review: Rebecca Hall Intrigues in Clare Lizzimore's Psychological Drama ANIMAL
The confusion one might feel trying to follow Atlantic Theater Company's production of British playwright Clare Lizzimore's psychological study, Animal, is no doubt an intentional reflection of the emotional state of its central character.
In a series of short scenes, played out on designer Rachel Hauck's sparse set that has the audience on two sides of a long rectangular playing area, director Gaye Taylor Upchurch's appropriately claustrophobic mounting depicts the distorted view of the world envisioned by a young woman named Rachel as she desperately reaches for an understand of what's happening to her and around her.
Dressed by designer Sarah J. Holden in the kind of shapeless camouflage one dealing with certain mental disorders may choose, Rebecca Hall, as Rachel, as gives the kind of gutsy, layered performance that keeps viewers intrigued while the playwright slowly drops bits of information that lead up to a puzzle-completing conclusion.
Details are hinted at, rather than presented. Rachel sees a therapist (Greg Keller) who is either dripping with casual misogyny (out of nowhere he asks if she's still cooking and suggests her anxiety can be cured with a bubble bath and a facial mask) or coaxing reactions out of her. Her husband (Morgan Spector, married to Hall in real life) is either patient and supportive or subtly controlling, and the elderly invalid woman Rachel cares for (Kristin Griffith) is most likely her mother-in-law. But is someone in Rachel's condition really caring for someone else?
Then there's the matter of the sexy young intruder (David Pegram) who interests Rachel with his desire to steal a kiss, not to mention the young girl (Fina Strazza) who speaks in a manner that defies her appearance.
Though the 80-minute piece lacks a satisfactory conclusion, Hall is always a captivating presence, as Rachel stages a personal rebellion against her own perception of her world.