BWW Review: Haunting THE YELLOW WALLPAPER at OUT LOUD Theatre

BWW Review: Haunting THE YELLOW WALLPAPER at OUT LOUD Theatre

THE YELLOW WALLPAPER, a short story written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, was published in 1892. The first-person narrative takes the reader inside the mind of an unnamed suffering from postpartum depression, who has been prescribed "The Rest Cure", which calls for her to be confined to a room, alone, to let her mind rest and heal itself. The cure turns out to be worse than the disease, and the seemingly innocuous yellow wallpaper in the room where she lives starts to play tricks on her already fragile mind, eventually leading her into total madness. The short story is all within the woman's mind, but in order to dramatize it, OUT LOUD Theatre has put The Woman center stage in a kind of freak show/mental hospital setting where the audience observes different aspects of her struggle for sanity. Meticulous stage design and costumes managed to convey volumes of information and set the tone perfectly, and the wordless performances are powerful and haunting.

This is a story told in four parts--Ritual, Light, Color and Escape. Each part of the story takes place on a different night (Thursday-Sunday), and the all female cast alternate between playing the role of The Woman, and The Wallpaper. This review is for the Ritual performance, with Siobhan LaPorte-Cauley as The Woman, and Ottavia De Luca, Sarah Leach and Erika Rethorn as The Wallpaper.

Before even experiencing the performance, however, the audience are greeted by monotone women in dour tan medical scrubs and led through a plastic lined hallway that feels like a quarantine zone into a small antechamber with yellow, floral wallpaper and a collection of women's magazines--Good Housekeeping, Woman's World, Cosmopolitan, and children's toys. The room is hot and cramped, and perfectly sets the tone for a theatre experience that isn't completely immersive, but is still designed to make the viewer somewhat disoriented and uneasy.

The Ritual performance is wordless and takes place on a thrust stage with the audience seated in three positions around the perimeter. The Woman, in this piece is desperately trying to take control of her circumstances by creating a comforting and stable ritual of motion, but the trickster wallpaper changes the narrative on her and she's unable to get control back, eventually succumbing to total madness. What's truly impressive about this performance is the ability to communicate so much just through movement and facial expressions. As The Woman starts to lose her grip on sanity, her movements become increasingly erratic, almost marionette-like, and the expression on the face of at least one of the women playing The Wallpaper conveys sadness and a similar sense of compulsion. The Wallpaper, in the case of this story, is a character acting not out of malice, but seemingly because it has also been put into a situation that's impossible to escape from.

OUT LOUD Theatre has taken a short story that is on it's own fascinating and disturbing, and elevated it to a wholly different experience. One of the most compelling aspects of Gilman's story is the fact that she just presents the reader with a course of events, but doesn't editorialize or tell anyone how to feel about it. OUT LOUD managed to capture that spirit, but really hone in on the horror of the story, while trusting their audience to be smart enough to understand. This is unique and a thrilling way to present source material that initially doesn't seem like it would lend itself to dramatic production. The level of attention to detail is just astonishing, and if there was anything to complain about, it would be the fact that as a performance, Ritual is too brief. It would have been nice to get two parts of the story in a single sitting, but being left wanting more is also a pretty solid endorsement.

OUT LOUD Theatre's 4-Part Immersive Experience: Ritual, Light, Color, & Escape
Original adaptation based on The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
June 22, 2017 - July 9, 2017 | Thursday - Sunday @ 8pm
Tickets are $20.00 Single Viewing | $50 for All Access Pass and are available at http://www.outloudtheatre.org/box-office.html

Photo by: David Cantelli


Related Articles

Rhode Island THEATER Stories | Shows


From This Author Andria Tieman

Andria Tieman Andria Tieman is a lifelong theatre fan, writer and librarian. She earned an MFA in fiction, play and screenwriting and presently she works as an (read more...)

  • BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S Charms at 2nd Story
  • BWW Review: Uneven CALENDAR GIRLS at Granite Theatre
  • BWW Review: Intricate and Compelling THE DIANA TAPES
  • BWW Review: No Trouble with Theatre by the Sea's THE MUSIC MAN
  • BWW Review: Haunting THE YELLOW WALLPAPER at OUT LOUD Theatre
  • BWW Review: Celebrating Girl Power with BEEHIVE The 60's Musical
  • Before you go...