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Theater Group Kicks Off Year with ‘Hysteria’

February 29, 2008

The Little Theatre Group continues its season with the fabulously witty farce “Hysteria,” by British playwright Terry Johnson.

Derived from the Greek hystera, meaning “womb,” hysteria is a term long associated with “crazy” or “out-of-control”women. Sigmund Freud made his reputation treating women whose sexual and other mental dysfunctions were lumped under the rubric “hysteric,” and whose stories of having sex with their fathers led the Viennese psychiatrist to theories regarding children’s sexual fantasies with their parents.

The factual basis for Johnson’s “Hysteria” is a potshot at Freud’s last days in London, where he fled to escape World War II. The Little Theatre Group’s newest offering finds the Freud household invaded by a cadre of zany visitors, including an up-and-coming surrealist Spanish painter named Dalí, a scantily clad young woman hiding in Freud’s closet, and Freud’s strict personal physician, who is trying to maintain peace and tranquility around his famous patient. Or is he?

Directed by veteran director and actress Susan Hall Liang, “Hysteria” features Ron Boston, Ricardo Jiménez, Lindsy Gutiérrez and Steve Friedman.

Jiménez, a Tico in love with English theater, said he selected the play because “it’s true to what psychoanalysis and Freud’s work is about. It’s playful and very smart in parts, and fearless in denouncing what is uncomfortable for some to say.”

Gutiérrez, also Costa Rican and a student at the BritishSchool in the western San José district of Pavas, makes her first starring appearance with the group after participating in “Night of the Iguana” last June.

Friedman, from Britain, a relative newcomer to the stage who starred in “Hal Holbrook’s Evening with Mark Twain” last year, made the following observation about “Hysteria”: “It gives the cast and audience the opportunity to experience the full range of Greek plays in one play.”

Boston is a veteran of the stage whose last appearance with the Little Theatre Group was a year ago, in “Strawberries in January.”

A London Times reviewer called “Hysteria” “one of the most brilliant and entertaining plays I’ve seen in years: wild, weird and funny,” while a New York Times reviewer called it “an exuberant surprise, but not only because of its wonderfully skewed, not inaccurate take on a couple of 20th century icons.

Like all good farce, it’s constructed with the precision of a watch, though the work is as unexpectedly resonant as a crazy sonnet.”

“Hysteria” opens today at the Little Theatre Group’s new home, San José’s Laurence Olivier Theater at Avenida 28, Calle 2, next to Sala Garbo. It runs for three weekends, until March 16, with performances Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Reservations can be made at the group’s Web site, www.littletheatregroup.org, or by calling its box office at 355-1623.

Pilar Saavedra-Vela has been a member of the Little Theatre Group since 2002.

 

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