(L-R) Ben Lewis, Lucinka Eisler, Giulia Innocenti in Hysteria. Photo by Joseph Alford
BOTTOM LINE: An absurd adventure where two insane people meet for a date at a restaurant with an obsessive waiter.
Inspector Sands' devised comedy Hysteria has played in London, Brighton, and Edinburgh and now it's been brought to New York as part of 59E59's annual Brits Off Broadway series. It is currently playing in rep with the company's other original piece If That's All There Is.
Hysteria is based on the T.S. Eliot poem, about two disturbed people on an awkward date with a desperate waiter. In quick bursts of exposure and recovery, these three character each lose control and spin into, well, hysterics. Between these outbursts, each is tightly wound while trying to contain him/herself. It's a marathon of energy on the part of the actors, and in Hysteria audiences can see some of the great physical performances of this season.
The show includes mime work (mostly with props), body parts gone missing, suspenseful champagne openings, and outrageous banana antics. It's the kind of production where the charming performances engage the audience from the beginning and the show progresses as a communal experience.
Each actor grapples a different mania. Lucinka Eisler's completely silent and mostly mimed portrayal of the obsessive-compulsive paranoiac opens the show and mesmerizes with her continual rapt, wordless panic. Ben Lewis, on the other hand, plays an amiable guy with some clear anxiety issues on a date with Giulia Innocenti, an enchanting borderline personality who has a maddeningly funny bit with a boa and a banana.
These three creative performers have pulled together a visceral, intriguing, and, yes, hysterical performance that delights while it explores every human's struggle to overcome ourselves. It's absurdist comedy at its best.
(Hysteria plays at 59E59 Theatre B, 59 East 59th Street between Madison and Park Avenues, through December 26, 2010. Performances are Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7:15PM, Thursdays and Fridays at 8:15PM, Saturdays at 2:15PM and 8:15PM, and Sundays at 3:15PM and 7:15 PM. Tickets are $35 ($24.50 for members) and are available at 59e59.org or by calling Ticket Central at 212.279.4200. More info at britsoffbroadway.com.)