January 24, 2022

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Evaluate: Within the Disturbing ‘Dana H.,’ Whose Voice Is It Anyway?

Review: In the Disturbing ‘Dana H.,’ Whose Voice Is It Anyway?

And your personal: Whereas mimicking Higginbotham’s psychological dissociation, the uncanniness of the lip-sync destabilizes most different notions of normalcy on this planet as properly. It suggests an underlife, parallel to the snug, acquainted one, that threatens at any second to erupt by means of the relatively skinny barrier of routine, simply as Higginbotham’s voice appears to erupt by means of O’Connell’s physique within the means of possessing it.

The query of voice is clearly central to Hnath’s concern right here, solely partially as a result of Higginbotham — it’s no spoiler to say — is his mom. On the time of the kidnapping, he was a thousand miles away, a freshman at New York College, apparently understanding nothing of what was happening in Florida. She didn’t need him to know: Jim held her son’s security over her head, she says, to implement compliance. “Every part I ever did was all based mostly on what was for Lucas, you realize?”

Within the silence that follows that line, you possibly can nearly hear the everlasting maternal follow-up plaint: “However what has he accomplished for me?”

To say he has honored her story, although that’s true, is the skimpiest potential means to have a look at the achievement of “Dana H.” When the play ran Off Broadway at the Vineyard Theater in 2020, after productions in Los Angeles and Chicago, I used to be electrified by the best way O’Connell turned herself right into a type of musical instrument, letting the recording of Higginbotham “play” her. Together with her personal voice shut off, she emphasised the opposite instruments at her disposal, in order that even the smallest shifts of posture and expression turned immensely expressive.

These results have grown extra complicated within the Broadway manufacturing, shifting its weight within the course of. Extra usually now, O’Connell appears to work towards the obvious veracity of the textual content: miming Higginbotham’s odd laughter a bit extra vividly, underlining moments through which she doubts her reminiscence. Although I by no means beforehand questioned any side of the story, I now discovered myself questioning whether or not a lady so traumatized might be a dependable narrator and whether or not a play is “true” simply because its phrases are.

Hnath is at pains to sign that it’s, partially by exposing his approach at each flip. We see O’Connell placed on her earpieces originally of the play and take them off on the finish. Beeps point out spots the place the transcript has been edited. (The sound design and skin-crawly music are by Mikhail Fiksel.) The interview was performed by Steve Cosson, the inventive director of the Civilians, relatively than by Hnath as a result of, as he explained to The Times, he wished his mom to inform the story “to somebody who knew nothing.” That means there can be no shortcuts that may introduce doubt.

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