Review: NoExit's '4.48 Psychosis'

March 10, 2011
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One of the elements that keeps plays from reaching new audiences is the notion that they have to be performed in traditional theaters. NoExit, a collaborative group evolved over the past few years through productions at the Indy Fringe Festival and elsewhere, took its most recent show to an art space at Big Car Gallery, where it seemed to succeed in reaching a crowd that may not ever set foot in the IRT.

A combination of free-form poetry and movement/dance, “4:48 Psychosis” (which ran Feb. 18-March 5) delves into the mind of a young woman (Georgeanna Smith), whose journal entries make up the text. No back story is given, and character development is deliberately kept at a minimum as she fights a losing battle with clinical depression. From the beginning—as audience members are met with her vacant-eyed, resigned presence—we know where this is going. And the piece might have been best served at 20 minutes shorter than its one-hour running time. (The New York production ran a difficult-to-image hour and 45 minutes…in French)  But the constant beat of a metronome, the off-stage voices, the confidence of the dance/movement, and the knowledge that those dangling light bulbs were surely going to be used for something made for a worthwhile evening, even though the material was more admirable than insightful.

Performed with less skill and precision, a show such as this could easily come across as pretentious or preciously sophomoric. Here, however, the skilled NoExit folks demonstrated a professionalism and attention to moment-to-moment detail that left me regretting missing past work and looking forward to seeing what they have in store—which includes “Thom Pain (based on nothing),” at the Wheeler Arts Community in May.

Your thoughts?


  • Does this require creativity?
    Would the purpose of art not be to teach emotional skill? Would it not be to show pathways to happiness, not despair and psychosis? Are they not parading banality, structuring within it quantitative variations devolving to a dismally monotone qualitive theme, and calling it--not useful--but "art", scarcely the same thing?

    I posted some of my views on art a couple weeks ago, here:

    My email is if you want to converse. I won't check back here.

    You won't be getting many comments, since most business people don't get off on psychosis and (presumably) suicide. Not much reason to devote effort becoming less mentally well and resourceful.
  • art
    Thank you for your comments (even if you aren't checking back on the blog).
    In response, I don't think the purpose of art is to teach emotional skill. Or the pathway to happiness. It can do those things, but why should it have to?
    Art can be hopeful or dispairing, giddy or serious, empowering or humbling. It can explore frailty or strength, light or dark (or shades of gray).
    Should we dismiss dispairing work from The Bell Jar to Cuckoo's Nest, from Oedipus to Catcher in the Rye just because of the state of mind of their characters?
    • purpose of art? hmm
      "What is the purpose of art?" is as big a question as "What is art?" I enjoy thinking about these questions, but only until it is time to leave for the theatre.

      I go to the theatre to find truth, beauty, and catharsis.

      Sometimes I just have fun, and that's okay, too. Sometimes I am disappointed and that's okay, too, as long as it doesn't happen too often, because that's just life. (If it happens too often, I stop going to that particular theatre or I stop going to shows by those particular artists. I don't stop going to see theatre.)

      If a performance artist's truth is difficult or depressing, I hope that experiencing that person's truth helps to develop compassion in myself.

      However, I am not interested in just sitting in on someone else's therapy session. I didn't see the show that Lou reviewed in this post, but I imagine that I might have been glad to see it because it helped me understand better what depressed people go through. It might have helped me understand the paradoxical appeal of depression to those who are depressed, as well as the helplessness they feel.

      I imagine it would have helped me develop compassion - and therefore an improved ability to help others, to be "good" if you will - in a safe way. I go on the journey with the artists, I learn and am changed, and then I come safely home.

      Sure, there is a danger that they will not bring me safely home (and by "safely home" I do not necessarily mean a happy ending), or that I will be changed during the journey in a way that makes me uncomfortable or that I regret.

      But most of the time I am glad I went. For the most part, I am a better person when I leave the theatre than when I entered it. The risks of always staying home (and mind you, I love my home and get a lot out of puttering here by myself or with my loved ones, too! I love being at home!) are more dangerous than the risks of never going with performance artists on their journey.

      Hope Baugh
      Indy Theatre Habit

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