Hysteria (A Love Story), Striding Lion Interarts Workshop, at the Athenaeum Theatre. In this hodgepodge of a play written and directed by Kate Hawley, a late-19th-century doctor is determined to cure the lame, very bright Elisabeth through “the talking cure” instead of traditional medical means. She resists at first, declaring that she’s not a weak-willed neurotic, but soon gives in. Hawley’s shopworn point seems to be that hysteria, once a diagnosis reserved exclusively for women, is simply the result of male oppression. However, Hawley betrays her point–and her characters–when she reveals that all Elisabeth’s talk about women’s rights is likely just a cover for her desire to marry the one man she can’t have.
Matt Yde as the doctor and Annie Kehoe as Elisabeth, wearing a perpetual doll-like pout, have heart but not much chemistry. The electricity comes from three female dancers (Jaclyn Shapiro, Allison Kutz, and Beth McDermott) who form a sort of Greek chorus. Their movement–deliciously choreographed by Erin Harper–ranges from the eccentric to the erotic as they portray the confusion and desperation of mental illness and of Elisabeth and the doctor. Both humorous and heartbreaking, the dancing makes one wonder whether a Hysteria that was pure dance might not have worked better.