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adapted from Krankheit der Jugend by Ferdinand Bruckner


Marie - Katherine Donahue
Desiree - Alicia Hoge
Irene - Lili Barsha/Christine Berry
Lucy - Holly Orfanedes
Freder - Jason Adams/Jeb Brown
Petrell - Matthew Sheehan
Alt - Burr Steers
Dr. Saltzman - Chris Campbell

Director - Bart DeLorenzo
Scenic Designer - Marsha Ginsberg
Lighting Designer - Geoff Korf
Costume Designer - Janice Benning
Composer/Sound Designer - Dan Sonis
Choreographer - Scott Vandrick

Producer - Mara Isaacs
Associate Director - Jonathan Liebhold
Translator - Natalie Pekas
Additional Text - Valerie Ellis, Chris Campbell
Assistant Lighting Designer - Greta Fisher
Stage Manager - Barbara Clifford

May 11 - June 18, 1995

Lili Barsha (Irene), Katherine Donahue (Marie), and Alicia Hoge (Desiree)

Matthew Sheehan (Petrell), Katherine Donahue (Marie), and Alicia Hoge (Desiree)

Katherine Donahue (Marie) and Jason Adams (Freder)



A new theater ensemble based in an equally new theater, the Evidence Room in Culver City, updates Ferdinand Bruckner’s 1926 Krankheit der Jugend (Sickness of Youth) by sandwiching in segments set in today’s world. The amalgam is retitled Swell and, while the acting is indeed swell, the play’s cold and esoteric subject matter will alienate all but the most patient. The setting is Vienna, Freud’s city. Women began to vote, and the U. of Vienna was the first school to accept and train women doctors. Marie (Katherine Donahue) and Desiree (Alicia Hoge) are about to graduate as doctors. The story revolves around the two women and their friends’ transition to the real world, a postwar, cynical world in quick transition.

The problem is that they have few goals or needs other than sex. Marie’s boyfriend, Bubi (Matthew Sheehan), wants to sleep with the always-serious Irene (Lili Barsha), who is jealous of Desiree’s wealth and status as a duchess.

Desiree’s boyfriend Freder (Jason Adams) secretly beds the maid (Holly Orfanedes) and turns her into a happy hooker. Desiree really wants Marie. A tutor named Alt (Burr Steers) watches it all.

If you don’t read in the playbill (or here) that most of the characters are doctors, you might miss the fact, as there is little in their manner to suggest it. They are unlikable kids, a dark stone’s throw from Melrose Place.

While the action mostly takes place in Marie’s room, the set design by Marsha Ginsberg looks to be the remnants of a dairy or whatever was left over in the warehouse that is now a theater.

Unfortunately, the action appears as if through a strainer. Ends of sentences are often lost to the reverberation of the hard-surfaced and cavernous space. The light design by Geoff Korf reinforces the chilly feeling. While director Bart DeLorenzo seems more concerned with didacticism than in emotions, he does draw from his cast a sense of pushing things to the edge and a belief in his vision.

A highlight are the vignettes set in today’s world, written by Valerie Ellis and Chris Campbell. In a modern psychology lab, Dr. Saltzman (Campbell) performs hilarious experiments that aim to find the source of people’s extreme behavior.

Also on the positive side, the seats are comfortable, and the sound system superb. Both the theater and the ensemble offer much potential. While the troupe may have misfired with this – erring on the side of "boldness" – one can sense seeds of a dynamic group.

– Christopher Meeks

Los Angeles Times

Evidence Room, a new Culver City-based theater group, sets up some high expectations with the title of its first show: Swell. How quickly those hopes are dashed. Theater seldom gets more painfully pretentious than this – a better title might be Swollen. Director Bart DeLorenzo and company have adapted Krankheit der Jugend (German for "Sickness of Youth"), Bulgarian-born playwright Ferdinand Bruckner’s drama about cynical Viennese medical students during the 1920s.

As if not satisfied with Bruckner’s text, DeLorenzo has added pointless scenes in a present-day laboratory, where scientists are researching "the origins of human behavior." "What separates (the play) from being an existential Melrose Place," DeLorenzo writes in his notes, "is the conflict Bruckner defines between the forces of chaos and control. . . ."

None of it makes the slightest bit of sense. What survives of Bruckner’s rarely performed original resembles a muddled Weimar-era soap opera, with the characters mired in petty sexual games and declaiming that "people should shoot themselves at 17." The overwrought performances veer perilously close to audience torture.

The company’s converted warehouse space is not ready for live performance. Many scenes are so inadequately lighted a viewer almost needs infrared vision to tell what’s going on. Unfortunately, those are probably the parts that work best.

– Scott Collins

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