SELF INJURIOUS BEHAVIOR
By Jessica Cavanagh
Directed by Marianne Galloway
Assistant Director – Micah Lyles
Stage Manager – Renee Dessommes*
Lighting Design – Bryant Yeager
Scenic Design – Jeffery Schmidt
Costume Design – Ryan D. Schaap
Assistant Costume Design – Raul Luna
Sound Design – Jake Nice
Production Assistants – Katie Martin, Rylee Jones
Conflict Choreographer – Lydia Mackay
Choreographer – Zenobia Taylor
Autism Consultant – Steph Garrett
CAST in Alphabetical Order
Libby/Ashley – Madison Calhoun**
Summer – Jessica Cavanagh*
Jake/Sebastian – Ian Ferguson*
Lynn/Gina – Desiree Fultz**
Sage – Jennifer Kuenzer**
Harmony – Danielle Pickard
Benjamin – Jude Segrest
* Member of Actor’s Equity Association
** Equity membership Candidate
Reviewed Performance: 5/19/2018
Reviewed by Ann Saucer, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Theatre Too’s production of Jessica Cavanagh’s “incredibly personal piece” grabs your attention and does not let go. Self Injurious Behavior is riveting, emotionally intense, frequently hilarious, and worth more than the price of admission.
Before the action begins, the audience knows from the set, props, and soundtrack that we are about to see a childhood scene. Children’s movies are stacked by the television; worn stuffed animals are scattered haphazardly; blocks and assorted plastic figures spill out of their storage containers; and, pillows on an over-stuffed chair portend someone’s exhaustion.
The play begins with Jake (Ian Ferguson) performing a song that, we soon learn, is about his son. Ferguson’s angelic voice is a real treat.
What immediately unfolds is as brilliantly performed as it is poignantly unnerving to watch. Summer (Jessica Cavanagh) is jolted awake from the chair she apparently spends a lot of time dozing in, by the increasing distress of her son, Benjamin (Jude Segrest). Summer is beyond exhausted, and she has been through this drill before. Cavanagh is amazing: we read on her face how much worse this could get, before it then gets worse. And, I cannot imagine how it would be possible for anyone to do a better job than Segrest does with this demanding role.
Benjamin is autistic, and not in the “on the spectrum” way that some of us excuse coworkers/family/friends lacking social skills. His neurological challenges exceed what one mother’s love can handle, and that is the tragedy at the heart of this intense work.
So, let me just get it over with: This play is a “must see” for anyone who has, or whose life has been changed by, a child whose functioning is severely impaired. BUT it is also for the rest of us too. Do you have a sister you love? See this play. Do you think that as a society we have lost sight of the fact that it takes a village to raise a child? See this play. Do you want to see great dancing to that big butt song? See this play.
We are treated to dancing – and a lot more – once the action moves from Benjamin’s play room to a weekend Renaissance festival that involves camping, costume garb, inebriation, assorted revelers, and copious amounts of sisterly love and affection.
Summer and Benjamin have been through a difficult journey. Several months after we first meet her, Summer is escorted to this festival by her straight-laced, sober sister Harmony (Danielle Pickard). The festival is a fun new passion for Summer’s other, not-so-sober sister, Sage (Jennifer Kuenzer).
The sisterly banter here is marvelous. “Sounds like the beginning of a horror movie,” Summer says to Sage, who is explaining her entree into the festival scene. A pep talk includes the threat, “or will I be forced to sing a Disney power ballad?” And, truth be told, only a sister is going to give you a Henry VIII coloring book when you’re tanked up on anti-depressants. Or inform you of the grim reality, “you never run out of tears or snot.” Kuenzer is perfect in her delivery here.
Tied with the big butt dancing in terms of sheer hilarity is Harmony’s diatribe against the starved-to-perfection sexual preferences of Doritos-consuming heterosexual men who are not themselves starved to perfection (look, don’t blame me; this character in a play said it). Pickard pulls off a real show-stopper here. The audience erupted in applause.
The festival atmosphere is fully captured by a beautiful set, soundtrack, and the detritus-dropping negligence of characters who authentically embody an outdoor weekend revelry experience. From the trees, to the tent, to the cooler that doubles as a chair, the audience is transported to a camp site. Music is important for these characters, and the sound design seamlessly integrates their listening experiences into the production. The range of costumes is impressive: in addition to fun festival garb, the costumes ably facilitate the talented actors’ role changes.
The scenes change time and place, filling us in on where Benjamin is, how and why he got there, and what his parents have been through. Cavanagh’s specific message is clear. The play also raises broader questions about the nature of parenting, family responsibility, and the myriad tentacles of grief.
Everything about this production, and every performance in it, is stellar. Don’t miss it.
SELF INJURIOUS BEHAVIOR
Theatre 3 Theatre Too
May 17, 2018 through June 10, 2018
Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays/Saturdays at 8:00 p.m.; Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
2800 Routh Street, Suite 168, Dallas, Texas 75201
For information and Tickets call 214 871 3300 or go to http://theatre3dallas.com/events/self-injurious-behavior/.