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Review: DANA H. at Berkeley Repertory

runs through July 10th

Review: DANA H. at Berkeley Repertory

Dana H.

Written by Lucas Hnath

Adapted from interviews with Dana Higginbotham conducted by Steve Cosson

Directed by Les Waters

Berkeley Repertory Theatre

There was a palpable discomfort in the audience as they listened to the horrific details outlined in the transcriptions of Dana Higginbotham's ordeal at the hands of a meth-addicted neo-Nazi ex-con abuser named Jim that forms the basis of Dana H. Told, or rather mouthed, by actor Jordan Baker, this reconstruction of events by her son, playwright Lucas Hnath is culled from tapes the real Higginbotham recorded in 2015, 18 years after her abduction and torture.

Baker is remarkable in this unique type of role. Seamlessly lip synching to the recorded dialogue, she uses her eyes, facial and body gestures to dig deep into the character, never saying a word. After a few minutes you forget the allusion and believe she's speaking. This technique is not new, having been mastered by the fabulous comedienne Lypsinka, but here using Dana H.s voice adds an element of realism to the near unbelievability of the actual events.

As if we're flies on the wall at a therapy session, Dana H. reveals intimate details of her abusive childhood, her resentments towards her parents, and in her own words, her "adaptation to maladaptation." It's tragic that her ill- treatment helped her survive her ordeal and it also lays the pattern of her distrust of authority, specifically the police who never came to her aid.

Review: DANA H. at Berkeley Repertory
Jordan Baker as Dana H.

Beaten, raped and isolated, Dana bonds with her abuser in a twisted Stockholm Syndrome scenario. Travelling from beaten down hotel to hotel (seedy set by Andrew Boyce), Dana attempts many escapes only to fail time and time again. Eventually she does gain her freedom, sort of. She spends the next few years in fear and hiding before coming back to her roots in hospice care which provides her a modicum of grace.

Dana H.'s tale is so violent and ugly, that it need not be presented theatrically. We read too much violence these days with mass shootings bombarding us daily. Perhaps I'm numbed by all this to have connected to Dana's recall. After just so much assault to her person and psyche, I zoned out halfway through the 75-minute runtime. I found myself wondering whether this would be a better play if it turned out to be a fiction - a twist on a twist.

Dana H. runs through July 10th, 2022. Tickets can be purchased online at berkeleyrep.org or by calling 510-647-2949.

Photo Credits: Calvin Ngu



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