BWW Review: THE PATIENT GLORIA at The Abbey Theatre

BWW Review: THE PATIENT GLORIA at The Abbey Theatre
Liv O'Donoghue, Gina Moxley and Zoe Ní Riordáin in The Patient Gloria by Gina Moxley. An Abbey Theatre and Gina Moxley co-production, in association with Pan Pan. Photo by Luca Truffarelli

"Beware of the Risen People"

- graffiti painted by female prisoners over the archway to the 1916 Corridor in Kilmainham Gaol, Ireland.

Writer and actress Gina Moxley stumbled upon the 1965 film Three Approaches to Psychotherapy (aka The Gloria Films) whilst residing in New York City. Set in the USA, the documentary-turned-movie centers around Gloria Szymanski a 30 year-old discontent divorcee who is filmed receiving distinctly different counseling sessions from 3 renowned psychotherapists.

Moxley, eager to resurrect this project for stage, recruits her New York roommate, choreographer and dancer, Liv O'Donoghue, later securing director John McIlduff across the pond in Paris.

Three performers. O'Donoghue, statuesque and striking in her pink frock steps into Gloria's stylish pumps. Moxley armed with outlandish boots and provoking 'props' furiously assumes the role of all three male psychotherapists intermittently stepping out of character to give her own zinging commentary. Zoe Ní Riordáin accompanies on guitar.

BWW Review: THE PATIENT GLORIA at The Abbey Theatre
Liv O'Donoghue and Gina Moxley in The Patient Gloria by Gina Moxley. An Abbey Theatre and Gina Moxley co-production, in association with Pan Pan. Photo by Luca Truffarelli.

The 3 sessions commence. Given a voice this time, Gloria is elegant, eloquent and intelligent though frustratingly she doubts this. Using the play as a vehicle to address deep-seated gender flaws, Moxley makes a decisive deviation. During each session with Gloria, she is less therapist and more predator, highlighting inappropriate male behavior towards women. Ironically, for a cast of all women, there was an inexplicable abundance of testosterone (perhaps this was the intent), with the pendulum of gender equality swinging dizzily in both directions.

Moxley duly forewarns, the performances are "provocative and upfront - in more ways than one." Whilst Gloria endured her psychotherapy, the audience was subjected to 'shock therapy'.

Before the final session, a troop of bright young women congregate around Moxley. Recounting dark encounters with men during her life, Moxley imparts the grim realities of a female birthright. Although clearly cathartic for Moxley, I saw a missed opportunity to also extoll the accompanying strengths, optimism and joys of womanhood.

I wholeheartedly support Moxley's motivation to raise awareness and continue to advance the third and fourth-wave feminist movements. However, I believe the future for women is less bleak than the picture painted tonight. The sleeping giant has awoken. "Beware of the Risen People."

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From This Author Jini Rooney

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