“I don’t normally do stuff like this,” says 1 to 2. 2 agrees. Finding herself in Timothy Dwight college, 2 has just spent the night with 1, a nice, gentle boy who makes her feel “valuable.” Thus begins “Psychopsychotic,” a new play written by Alexa Derman ’19 that has the potential to be a cult classic. Exploring the issues of sexuality, campus rape culture and dominating male figures, the play employs sarcasm and satire to convey the serious message of sexual violence in collegiate life.
Set at present-day Yale, the play follows three characters, numbered 1, 2 and 3. 1, a toxically masculine, Timberland boots–wearing, Timothy Dwight sophomore Yale Man TM, seduces 2, a lesbian who is making an exception with 1. During the course of their relationship, 1 becomes increasingly sexually aggressive at the emotional expense of 2. In the background of their relationship is violence by men against women: a student has been abducting girls, killing them, cutting up their bodies, placing the remains in refrigerators and selling the filled refrigerators on the Facebook page “Free and for Sale.” When 2 finds 3 alive, a Yale senior, in 1’s fridge, 2 begins to fear for her life.
The play is performed in the Nick Chapel Theater, located in the basement of Trumbull College. I would argue that the Nick Chapel Theater is one of the best at Yale: an intimate space, the seating moves at an upward slope as you go toward the back of the theatre. By the top row, you are looking downward at the stage. Furthermore, director Mikaela Boone ’21 uses the space to its fullest potential: she employs the second floor of the stage, toward the roof of the space, resulting in visually pleasing blocking.
The set was just as engaging: the static dorm room set was adorned with cult-classic posters, including “Rick and Morty,” Kurt Cobain, Marilyn Monroe, “The Breakfast Club,” “It,” “A Clockwork Orange.” A well-placed “For God, For Country and For Yale” banner was a nice added touch.
I cannot laud Derman’s script enough. Although 2 and 3 are both victims, they possess a wit and intellect that make them simultaneously entertaining and serious. Despite her literal captivity, 3 is clever and facetious in a way that elevates her from her hopeless situation. Furthermore, Derman employs all three characters to impersonate Yale figures and institutions, such as the Dean’s office, Chief Ronnell Higgins, the Women’s Center and the Yale Alert System. At times favoring dark, sarcastic humor and at times choosing serious, dramatic monologues, Derman brilliantly critiques collegiate structural prejudice against women and the inefficacy of Yale’s security initiatives.
An all-female cast of three, Lucy Tomasso ’19, Emily Rodriguez ’21 and Jacqueline Blaska ’20 were all fantastic. Tomasso, who played 1, was a frustrating presence on stage: she was able to fully embody an antagonist, while inciting fear in the audience, as well as her fellow actors. Although Blaska delivered many comedic lines perfectly, her performance was supplemented with an ability to transition between emotional registers with ease. You could also sense that her sarcasm was rooted in a sense of hopelessness, which rounded out both her performance and her character. Finally, Rodriguez embraced and rejected a degree of sympathy from the audience. Her plight was characterized by internal struggle, but the audience could not dismiss her obvious strength. The thin line between sarcastic, serious and emotionally-provoking was treaded brilliantly by each of the actors, and their group dynamic only emphasized these characteristics of the show.
I must qualify this entire review with the fact that I am a straight, white male, who has never been faced with te sort of unbalanced power dynamic explored in this show. “Psychopsychotic” examines and depicts many situations and emotions that I and most men struggle to fully understand. When Rodriguez says, “I’m afraid I’m overreacting. I can end it whenever I want,” toward the end of the play, I and I’m sure many men are not confronted with the structural failures that make women afraid to speak out about abuse. Yet, regardless of who you are, Derman, Boone and the entire cast will leave you emotionally distraught, thought-provoked and refusing to even blink from start to finish.
Nick Tabio | firstname.lastname@example.org