REVIEW: ‘4.48 Psychosis’ is a mind-bending success


Kaylin Damico

Brenna Flanagan, Addison Hamlet, Dajah Glenn, and Kara Shoup perform in Psychosis.

Stephen Lambros, Staff Writer

Even in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UNCW theatre department has continued to dedicate themselves to putting on excellent performances, working with top-tier material and displaying great production value. Their latest stage production, an adaptation of British playwright Sarah Kane’s experimental play “4.48 Psychosis,” not only showcases the department’s knack for honoring the material they’re working with but also exists as a statement of confidence that, yes, the department is not only willing to tackle experimental material but is more than capable of executing that material in unique and effective ways.

“4.48 Psychosis” depicts the inner thoughts, self-doubt and societal fears of a single psychiatric patient, represented by four actresses who play the various aspects of the patient’s psyche. Each actress is denoted as ‘I.’ The course of the play is guided by the nebulous script penned by Kane. It’s devoid of time markers, a concrete setting and dialogue—guided instead by monologues that wrestle with abstract, weighty subjects such as depression, religion, self-harm, life and suicide. There are scenes in which each of the four actresses are evaluated by doctors, and there are many different moments where each part of the psyche provides a monologue that gives the audience more details about the patient’s condition. Playwright Sarah Kane never saw the play performed, as she committed sucide shortly after finishing the script.  

The student actors all do a terrific job in their respective roles. The patient, especially, displays a certain fearlessness and freedom through their line delivery and body movements. There are times when their performances feel less like acting and more like interpretive dance, which is a beautiful intention. Through their acting, it is clear that they have dug deep into the weight of the subjects they are depicting.

The set, costume and lighting design is also worthy of being commemorated. The typical set design is that of a house interior and nice chairs, or maybe just a door, but for this one, the department has erected gray pillars at the edges of the stage—perhaps they’re the corridors of the psychiatric hospital, or perhaps they’re pillars within the mind of the patient. All four actresses wear a tie-dye jacket (as well as a tie-dye mask, jeans and UGG boots/converse), presumably nodding to the psychedelic nature of the production as a whole and to portray one character. There are impressive tricks with lighting and compelling usage of projected photos/footage that I will not spoil here—but those tricks affirm the versatility of the department.

“4.48 Psychosis” is another great production in the COVID-19 pandemic era of UNCW’s theatre department, and audiences should be encouraged to see it. Live performances in the Cultural Arts Building are planned for tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m., Sunday (2/21) at 2 p.m. (the Sunday performance will be livestreamed for non-students/non-faculty), 8 p.m. from Thursday, Feb. 25 to Saturday, Feb. 27, and Sunday, Feb.  28 at 2 p.m. Click here to find information about reserving seats to the in-person performances.