CoHo Season 20
January 15 – Feb 6, 2016
CoHo Productions with Grace Carter and Sue Mach present a world premiere:
The Yellow Wallpaper
Written by Sue Mach
Conceived by Grace Carter
Adapted from the short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Directed by Philip Cuomo
Performed by Grace Carter, Chris Harder & Christy Bigelow
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
CoHo’s 20th Season continues with a new stage adaptation of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, one of the most influential American short stories of the 19th century. This world premiere production will integrate expressionistic audio, visual and movement interludes with the haunting literary text.
Sue Mach is a Portland-based, nationally-produced, award-winning playwright, who has adapted the short story’s first-person internal narrative with excerpts from Gilman’s published letters and journals detailing her related struggles with mental health and gender inequality. Recently, Mach won the Oregon Book Award and an Oregon Literary Arts Fellowship, and a remarkable double header of two world premieres at once at Artists Repertory Theatre and Third Rail Repertory Theatre in 2012. She also teaches literature at Clackamas Community College – so her work “tackles dense social and political issues with the clarion voice of both a teacher and a formidable storyteller” (Portland Monthly).
This production of The Yellow Wallpaper is impressively co-produced, conceived and performed by Grace Carter, the multi-talented co-founder of defunkt theatre. It is directed by Philip Cuomo, CoHo’s own Producing Artistic Director and company member of Third Rail Repertory Theatre. Shining stars of Portland theatre Chris Harder and Christy Bigelow round out the cast, supported with movement direction by award-winning choreographer Paige McKinney (Portland Experimental Theatre Ensemble). A visionary team of designers will transform CoHo’s intimate blackbox theatre to a fully-immersive, elegant, raw space – bringing everyone inside the haunting room with The Yellow Wallpaper.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story follows Charlotte, a woman writer who is confined to a single bedroom with a bolted-down bed for three months in 1890 by her husband who is also her doctor as a “rest cure” for her postpartum depression and anxiety. Isolated and under-stimulated, Charlotte turns to an interior world of imagination, obsessing on the room’s ghastly wallpaper until a trapped figure appears to her in the pattern. Is it a hallucination, ghost or animus – a personification of her own trapped psyche? Be immersed in Charlotte’s inner landscape to follow her journey through constraint to creativity and transformation.
PRESS REVIEWS (All Photo Credits to Owen Carey)
OREGON MUSIC NEWS by John Rudoff
“The questions posed in the original story –difficult enough themselves – blossom in this interpretation as a study of marital relationships, trust, love, and above all the position of artistic work in one’s spiritual life and one’s identity.”
OREGON ARTS WATCH Review by Christa Morletti McIntyre
“Charlotte’s fight for her sanity is not about losing her mind, but an actual death of the self. As her anxiety and paranoia mount, she looks to the walls of her room as the psychic Gordian’s knot she must sever. Her movement against the walls begins as a lyrical promenade that Carter reveals perceptively, with growing anxiety: when she dismantles Charlotte’s prison, she does so with a chimpanzee swagger, writhing in agony. The vibrating tension of the walls closing in and the shades of allegory that CoHo builds around Charlotte’s psychosis is a humane, but terrorizing, depiction of her descent and a glimpse into hell. In the end, she may have escaped. But who is she now, and where is that place?”
BROADWAY WORLD Review by Krista Garver
“Sue Mach’s excellent script is a mashup of the short story and Gilman’s personal letters and journals, which provide a well rounded-out plot. The main character in this adaptation is Charlotte herself. It begins with Charlotte meeting her future husband, John, for the first time, at one of his lectures. The fact that he initially admires her as an intellectual makes it even more heartbreaking later when he insists that the best cure for her nervous condition is to not think. Mach has beefed up the plot and given both John and Jenny (John’s sister, who acts as a companion/nurse to Charlotte) substantial roles. It works very well.”
“Things get animalistic and filthy by the end of this stunning world premiere adaptation of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s classic short story, and you’d never expect it from the tight-lipped Victorian setting. The garden home looks like Pride and Prejudice, the husband is perfect in his coattails and the china came from Paris. But when a new mother is prescribed a “rest cure” for nervousness and begins imagining a woman living in her wallpaper, the psychological twists roll in fast. Imaginative staging plays with your head, as wallpaper projected around the theater twists like a psychedelic screensaver and a woman (Diana Schultz) weaves in and out of panels around the stage. Creator and star Grace Carter paired with local playwriting legend Sue Mach to adapt the story and pen a new intro, CoHo’s artistic director Philip Cuomo directs and the athletic crawling scenes were choreographed by Portland Experimental Theatre Ensemble’s Paige McKinney. “Looks like a lot of cleanup,” said a patron leaving opening night. The set, yes. The production itself is near-perfect.
PORTLAND TRIBUNE Review by Joseph Gallivan
There are moments of moving intensity, such as when Jenny wordlessly washes Charlotte’s hair in an enamel bowl on the floor. The play’s script leaves much unsaid, inviting you to imagine her pain, as the wallpaper invites imaginative pattern making.”
EDGE MEDIA NETWORK Review by Meg Currell
“It is a tale that resonates today, when women continue to fight for the right to thrive on their own terms, and to separate themselves from the limitations imposed by traditional gender roles.”
“Mach’s adaptation is very imaginative, asking questions, giving hints but only giving you a taste of…possibilities. This is a story that sneaks up on you. Just when you think you may have solved the puzzle, another element intercedes... Hitchcock, the master of suspense, would have been proud…Cuomo has done a masterful job of pacing and modulating the actors and action to maximum benefit.”
OREGONIAN Review by Richard Wattenberg
PORTLAND MERCURY Review
PQ Monthly Review by TJ Acena