Review: La MaMa’s ‘The Pill’ Conjures Ups An Emotional Spectrum of Feelings
By Mercedes Vizcaino, Contributing Writer, January 30, 2018
Experimental theatre can be a barrage of whacky, fun, nonsensical and in-your-face storytelling. The Pill, produced by Off-Broadway’s La MaMa theatre, has all these elements wrapped into one. The play revolves around a mother who takes her pre-teen, anorexic daughter’s anti-depressant pill, has a mental breakdown, and the rest of the family members offer their recollection of the day’s events.
The Pill opens with young Leni, singing “Free me” and almost immediately sets the tone for the adolescent’s struggle with mental illness and how her younger brother, mom, dad, grandpa and grandma deal with this reality. Leni played by Zoe Wilson from Orange is the New Black Season 5 fame, is one to watch. Her vocal range gives depth to Leni’s angst and frustration with herself and her family’s interaction with her illness. As the play progresses, we learn about each family’s perspective and are privy to their own dysfunction with their behavior and unsolicited analysis of Sylvia. Winsome Brown’s interpretation of Sylvia as the hip, crazed, and endearing character trying to find solace in her art and unconventional event planning business, believes she’s doing her best to raise two kids as a single mom. Brown does a great job to showcase Sylvia’s complexities with humor and desperation.
The minimal white sets are used as a backdrop for video footage to convey emotion, humor and push the narrative. And, it works. The dynamic between these zany characters is rich and often comes together with witty dialogue and sometimes song. One memorable tune is “Lazy Moon,” written by Roberta Mase, one of the author’s of The Pill and the playwright’s mother, is complemented by images of various silhouetted butt cheeks against black, as the family play the ukulele to signify they are in this together no matter how hard it can get.
This memoir-style play offers the audience a glimpse into one family’s coping mechanisms with mental illness, the perceived reactions and stereotypes associated to with this dreaded disease affected by millions. There is no one cure, but with humor, love, patience and understanding, there is hope.
The Pill presented by La MaMa, 66 East 4th Street, through February 4, 2018. Conceived by Marla Mase; written by The Family (Marla’s son, Yanai Feldman; her late daughter, Lael Summer; her father, Howard Mase; and her mother Roberta Mase); original score by Tomás Doncker. Directed by Randolph Curtis Rand. Cast: Zoe Wilson, Winsome Brown, Joshua Turchin, Roger Rathburn, Graham Stevens, Adam Patterson and Marina Re.
For the latest news and reviews on theater in New York City and beyond click here.
For a listing of Broadway shows click here.
Cover: (l. to r.) Zoe Wilson and Winsome Brown in ‘The Pill;’ photo: Theo Cote.