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By Eve Ensler
Echo Theatre Company

Festival of Independent Theatres

Directed by K. Doug Miller


Jordan Willis – Man
Terri Ferguson – Woman

Photo by Pam Myers-Morgan

Reviewed Performance: 6/1/2013

Reviewed by Chris Jackson, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

The Vagina Monologues, written in 1996, has been translated into more than 48 languages and performed in over 140 countries. Major stage and screen stars have performed it in various productions all over the world and is without a doubt the most recognized work by Eve Ensler.

The Treatment first opened on September 12th, 2006 at the Culture Project in New York City starring Ms. Ensler’s adopted son, Dylan McDermott. It explores the trauma that can result from military conflict. Known for writing works that don’t shrink from political or other “hot” topics, The Treatment is another of Ms. Ensler’s provocative achievements.

A soldier has just returned from interrogating detainees and an Army therapist is ostensibly trying to get him to deal with his reactions. The play has been described as “a blunt exploration of torture, accountability and a soldier’s ‘duty’ to commit atrocities in the name of democracy.” The word Iraq is never mentioned but there is little doubt as to the war being discussed, and even seven years after its premier the play still raises legitimate questions and concerns for the audience.

Presented by Echo Theatre, the play’s short scenes present the process in which Man, played by Jordan Willis, gradually comes to grips with both what he did and what that did to him in his service as an interrogator. Willis starts out somewhat cocky and defensive but obviously deeply disturbed and talking about an enclosed space, the dark, sleeplessness and noise. Slowly he begins to reveal more and becomes more vulnerable and open to the therapist. He pulls at his hair over and over and paces relentlessly. It’s a brave and uninhibited performance and the extended nude scene is relevant to where he is at this point in his therapy and life, as well as illustrative of the story he is telling. If at times he seems to be pushing too hard to feel the emotion he is trying to convey, it is nevertheless an ultimately powerful and thought-provoking achievement.

Terri Ferguson, as Woman, is all rules and protocol, almost always standing at parade rest, buttoned up tight in her uniform. Her role is more difficult I believe, in the sense that in portraying the therapist she has to react and try to solicit information, and it isn’t until later in the story we begin to see the chinks in her armor. She too seems to hit a high vocal and emotional peak immediately which doesn’t let up until the point where we see the dependence that has grown between the characters and she becomes more human. It is a strong and determined partner she creates for Mr. Willis and both manage to make the transition to the more intimate scenes work.

As we begin to understand that the therapist may not be as objective as we thought and discover she may indeed have a dark, secret agenda, the parallels begin to emerge. While he feels trapped in a dark room, she literally stays in a room constantly. While he is ultimately willing to go beyond the limits he ever expected to cross, she pushes him by manipulation and subterfuge as much as he pushed his detainees.

In some sense I was reminded of Sartre’s No Exit, with both characters trapped in an enclosed space, in the dark about so many things while creating their own hells with their actions. There is incessant talk of rules and hard choices, “hard” being a euphemism for the male erection. “Give me the names!” and “You tell me!” are the war cries for both these damaged souls.

It is an interesting, unusual script and Director Doug Miller moves it along quickly and effectively over the simple set, deftly changing dynamics by the placement of his actors and guiding them in the making and portrayal of interesting choices. If Ms. Ensler’s topical work interests you, you won’t be disappointed by this production that raises sad and recurring horrors needing to be dealt with.

***Remaining performances are Saturday, June 8th at 5:00 pm, Thursday, June 13th at 8:00 pm, Saturday, June 15th at 8:00 pm, and Saturday, June 22nd at 5:00 pm.

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