Thumbs up for "The Yellow Wallpaper" at Wicker Park's Chopin Theatre

Date: 
08/28/2014
Sturm

Lorelei Sturm as the woman

From the yellowing pages of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's feminist short story, The Yellow Wallpaper, Lorelei Sturm brought to life a thought provoking story, using monologue, dialogue, performance movement and "off stage" audio narration. Opened Sunday, Aug. 23, at Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division, the show, well directed by Jaclyn Biskup, will run through Sept. 14, in Wicker Park. 

The three-person cast in the one-hour, one-act play, located in a bedroom, tell the story of a young woman suffering from postpartum depression. She is married to a physician, John, who believes in the "rest cure" to overcome her "nervousness." 

He arranges for them to live in an old rundown house for the summer, not only away from the road, but three miles from the village. Controlling her access to the house, he has her "confined" to the former nursery on the top floor, forbidding her from working. 

Played convincingly by

WomanJohn

The woman and her husband John (Ed Krystosek)

, John spends little time with her, even at night. Repeatedly he tells her that healthy eating, walking, breathing fresh air, resting and, of course, taking medication will return her to normalcy. "Exercise depends on your strength your food somewhat on your appetite but air you can absorb all the time," John repeats. 

Sturm, who plays the wife, takes you with her as, isolated, she dives further into depression, becoming obsessed with the wallpaper that surrounds her. Sturm's periodic use of slow motion movements effectively enhance the conveyance of her mental state.

DaivaB

Daiva Bhandan as a ghost

Daiva Bhandari adaptively plays the governess or nurse, a ghost and narrator, as well as a prop tender for a rope that is attached to Sturm's ankle midway through the story. 

Ropes are used with great symbolism in the play. Loosely hung to define the bedroom walls, they were described by audience-goer Denise Browning as "brilliant." "They were indicators of what was to come. And the use of the robe on her ankle was an effective way to increase the tension within the story. It was all very well thought out." 

In conversations post-performance, some audience members commented that women's mental and physical health issues, such things as postpartum depression, are not always that far away from the practices of more than 120 years ago. 

In a conversation with Sturm following the performance, she professed that she was not the play's writer but rather its creator. What ever title she prefers, she told a great story on paper and then performed it flawlessly.

Well paced with the use of background music from time to time, the show has a thumbs up from this writer.

Presented by the Mill, their notes on Charlotte Perkins Gilman include:

She was born in Hartford, CT in 1860. Throughout her life she made much of her living lecturing on women’s issues and social reform. She was a prolific poet, though is probably best known for her short story The Yellow Wallpaper, published in The England Magazine in 1892. The work was inspired by her own experience with postpartum depression in 1885, and subsequent treatment with “the rest cure," which brought her very “near the borderline of utter mental ruin”. Some of her other notable works include Women and Economics, The Home: Its Work and Influence, Herland, and her autobiography The Living of Charlotte Perkins Gilman. She died in Pasadena, CA in 1935 from an intentional overdose of chloroform.

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