‘Dana H.’ Was Kidnapped by a Psychopath. Now Her Ordeal Is a Broadway Play.

Dana H., together with Is This A Room, have been the perfect items of off-Broadway theater simply earlier than the pandemic hit. Now, karma doing its greatest form of factor, the 2 Winery Theatre performs are taking part in on the similar Broadway theater. Each are rooted in two very completely different traumatic real-life occasions, and each use phrases that have been actually stated within the reciting of these actual occasions.

Whereas Is This A Room focuses on intelligence contractor Actuality Winner’s FBI interrogation (utilizing the transcript of that day), Dana H. reveals to the viewers what occurred in 1997 when Dana Higginbotham, mom of playwright Lucas Hnath, was kidnapped and held hostage for 5 months, her terrifying captor “Jim” shifting her from motel to motel in a horrific, nightmarish street journey.

Hnath—multi-award-winning playwright of productions together with A Doll’s House, Part 2—has crafted Dana H. It’s round 75 minutes lengthy, and directed by Les Waters, starring a transfixing Deirdre O’Connell as Hnath’s mom. O’Connell first takes her seat on Andrew Boyce’s set, which evokes a nondescript motel room. She is wired as much as a microphone and earbuds by stage hand. We study through surtitles that she’s going to lip-sync Higginbotham’s phrases, as recorded in an edited interview performed by a theatrical colleague of Hnath’s, Steve Cosson.

And so this astonishing train begins. It’s not simply lip-syncing, although, which means a really primary act of impersonation or mimicry. For one, O’Connell masters each rustle, motion of the physique, caught breath, chortle, rise of emotion. Each sound that’s on tape, each pause, every thing is replicated by her. However she additionally inhabits the character of Higginbotham commandingly too, sitting there, going through us.

The play begins and ends with a meditation on dying. Higginbotham, in her common life, is a hospital chaplain who helps individuals and their family members put together for dying, this after her personal life was taken away from her by her violent assailant and abuser. He begins as a referral whose notes she scans—“he was in Folsom, San Quentin, Pelican Bay, uh for inciting riots, uh carjackings, uh tried murders.”

He’s a prison and a member of an extremist hate group—the play’s producers have requested journalists to not title this group in evaluations, which appears bizarre as Hnath himself does so within the play, many instances—and explaining its affect is one cause Dana feels so trapped and imperiled. Why title the group within the play so typically? The media, sure, may amplify the title by saying it, however it’s curious to ask the media to not invade your privateness and probably endanger security when you’ve gotten carried out the identical in such unsparing element within the title of artwork. One would have thought the individuals not being named could know concerning the play regardless of the media attracts a veil over in these evaluations.

Jim first stays with Dana, sleeping on the sofa downstairs. He slept on the sofa downstairs: “I bear in mind him sharpening the pen… to make a weapon.” There’s a bloody suicide try. It’s odd, the dearth {of professional} boundaries, particularly round somebody so harmful, however this isn’t elaborated upon.

Finally, Jim throws himself via Dana’s window and kidnaps her. And so her nightmare begins. The specter of dying, and excessive violence, is what he makes use of to stop her from escaping. She is in conditions—in cafes, and public locations—the place she desires to make a break for it or attempt to inform somebody what is occurring. However she can’t.

“O’Connell’s gallery of facial expressions and gestures convey confusion, concern, and brutalization—and infrequently, amazingly, humor.”

Higginbotham finds herself drawn deeper into his internet of insanity, with receding alternatives of escape. Each encounter with a cop ends with the kidnapper and the cop chumming up. The one time a cop tells her to make a run for it and he’ll maintain Jim for so long as he can, Jim merely catches as much as her once more, and her captivity continues. She says—and that is maybe a mix of his use of coercive management and Stockholm Syndrome—that she got here to see him as her protector and that she was envious he had parlayed his anger into truly killing somebody, as she herself had wished to do now and again. Jim ultimately rapes her, violently.

O’Connell’s gallery of facial expressions and gestures conveys confusion, concern, and brutalization—and infrequently, amazingly, humor. We really feel growing, wrenching desperation watching this story of abuse and imprisonment, though an increasing number of annoyed with Cosson as an interviewer. He asks questions, however they’re of the extraordinarily primary variety. Maybe he was being understandably light along with his good friend’s mother, however interviews are interviews, and a play is a play—and an excessive amount of in Dana H. is just left unasked and unanswered.

We do hear of her rescue after which an embracing of a brand new lifetime of guide steelwork—and Jim’s obvious vanishing from her life. However the play prompts so many questions—about her captivity, the dearth of response to it, and what occurred afterward.

The textual content doesn’t clarify if legislation enforcement typically knew and was looking for her (she has occasional not very useful encounters with native enforcement), however it appears odd that Higginbotham was kidnapped and basically left her life for 5 months, and no household or authorities took discover of this, or proactively tried something to return her to security. Possibly they did, and it isn’t associated right here.

Dana H. stunningly escapes its personal stage bounds close to the tip, when Waters, lighting designer Paul Toben, and sound designer Mikhail Fiksel deliver the motel room to loud, insane life to convey the disorientation and terror—and geographical dislocation—that Higginbotham endured in so many alternative motel rooms by the hands of Jim.

An uncredited actor taking part in a maid tidies the room (that’s actually many rooms) on this interlude earlier than O’Connell returns to the stage to finish her act of theatrical virtuosity—and nothing that’s lacking from the dramatic account of the play diminishes that virtuosity. It is a singular, richly nuanced efficiency. Go and see it.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/dana-h-was-kidnapped-by-a-psychopath-now-her-ordeal-is-a-broadway-play?supply=articles&through=rss | ‘Dana H.’ Was Kidnapped by a Psychopath. Now Her Ordeal Is a Broadway Play.


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