July 19, 2013
The drama Trapped, is an aggressive, raw, in-your-face, interpretation of life written and directed by Henriette Rise. The one-liner for the work simply reads, “Chained to reality and left to die.” Trapped makes you think; it makes you uncomfortable; it makes you aware. Nothing about it is pretty, everything about it is relevant.
Rise is big on words – they are used visually (cards appear reading “Authority,” “Society,” “Normality,” “Structure,” and “Rules”), rhythmically (with chants, the repetition of “M-E Me” throughout), and the script certainly isn’t lacking in them. In fact, it is clear by the highly metaphorical coloring of each line, that Rise has much more to say on the issues raised than this one production could allow. Nonetheless, in a work just ninety minutes long, the audience is faced with the real life issues of rape, abortion, monogamy vs. polygamy, gay marriage, lesbian prejudice, bisexuality, war, feminism, self-destruction, society, conformity, and freedom.
The most dynamic aspect of the play lies in how the characters are revealed. It opens with just flashlight beams dodging around the stage, accompanied by silhouettes of two men crawling, climbing a ladder, screaming words – words about art, angels, and the world. These two male artists are soon lurking around three bubble-encased women, their bare chests exposed, as their garbled syllables and contorted movements allude creatures.
By the plays end, connections are made – the painters take on the identities of Pablo Picasso and Raoul Dufy, the three female “creatures” evolve into: Picasso’s mistress and artist in her own right, Dora Maar; feminist, lesbian artist, Claude Cahun; and feminist, bisexual artist, Hannah Hoch.
The scenes are jam-packed with nuances of action or words that point to something larger than what we see on stage. “I now pronounce you artist and artist,” Claude proclaims dressed as a man, snapping photos of the bra-and-tutued, giggling and kissing duo, Hannah and Dora. This follows the cringe-worthy scene of the duo being brutally raped, and Hannah having an abortion performed with a pair of scissors while remarks fly over who “should have been an abortion.” The wedding ceremony also precedes a violent attack and the five characters, with Claude being raped as a war tactic.
The five find a brief semblance of solidarity, before transitioning into the familiar confines of today’s world – nine to five on Wall Street, as a secretary, a teacher – still living with harsh realities, just in a different form. “I guess this is freedom,” Claude poignantly notes.
A through-line is the idea of what it means to be an Artist, including the need for isolation, understanding your body and mind as their own works of art, and the ability to recreate and accept change. The phrase, “Art needs an aberration” is repeated. This play, in and of itself, stands as an aberration in the realm of theater, and though it is not fit for the entire family, it deserves more audience attention.
Trapped was presented at the June Havoc Theatre as part of the Midtown International Theatre Festival. The Midtown International Theatre Festival is in its fourteenth season and has various full-length plays and musicals running through August 4. EYE ON THE ARTS, NY.