Anna Weiss, Boxer Rebellion Theater. In a healthy American culture (if you can imagine such a thing) the “recovered memory” phenomenon of the late 80s and early 90s would have been laughed off as a particularly bizarre bit of psychosexual kitsch. One more way in which we turn anxiety into sex into TV. But a nation gets the pathology it deserves, and so it wasn’t laughed off. People–the overwhelming majority of them young women–went on talk shows to tell how they finally got to the bottom of their eating disorders when they underwent hypnosis and recovered the deeply repressed memory of their fathers, mothers, neighbors, and/or family friends practicing the most horrific perversions on them, subjecting them to sexual abuse and torture, often in the context of satanic rites. Before the hysteria had run its course, these damaged souls were conjuring scenes of suburban pagans killing babies for their blood. And they were believed.
The parallels to the Salem witch trials are obvious, and the recovered-memory hysteria deserves its Crucible. But Anna Weiss isn’t it. Mike Cullen’s script and politics are both too narrowly focused to encompass the variety of interests and influences that produced this trauma. As written and as played, the title character–a hypnotherapist with major ethical issues–is so obviously a sick fuck that the central mystery becomes why nobody seems to notice. A nice chilling twist at the end comes across as far too little way too late.