Loud rhythmic music overtakes the theater as the house lights dim, six men come onto the stage and as the lights rise they throw themselves into a Martha Graham dancing frenzy. The Treatment is in its world premier run at The Boston Court Performing Arts Center in Pasadena. Written by Richard Alger and co-conceived, choreographed and directed by Tina Kronis, The Treatment is an adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s Ward 6. An adaptation it certainly is because Ward 6 probably did not consist of drumming on metal buckets or randomly placed Graham-esque dance routines.
This production features well-trained actors who have committed to the material entirely and with full force. It is funny, sad and extremely strange, a mixture that definitely gets reactions from the audience. The setting is a neglected mental hospital in a small practically deserted town. The hospital is understaffed and poorly up kept and after witnessing a few staff meetings it becomes abundantly clear that there is not much of a distinction between the mental stability of the staff and the patients. One thing that works really well in this production is that all but one of the actors plays both Doctors and patients. This plays on the whole idea of who is actually crazy, the ones who are locked up or the ones with they key?
Mark Doerr plays Dr. Ragin who could be considered the main character and who is the one actor who does not play multiple parts. The performances in this piece are genuine and well thought out. Doerr does an excellent job showing his character’s journey from one side of the mental hospital to the other, all the while not really knowing which side he actually belongs on.
The problem with this production unfortunately is the story. Whether it is from the original Chekov work or just Alger’s adaptation, something is missing. The storyline is jumbled and not entirely clear, halfway through it almost seems as if it has started a new story. At first there seems to be a clear question of how sane are the people who run the hospital versus the patients and their sanity. However, suddenly it becomes about Dr. Ragin’s struggle with money and alcoholism and never really goes anywhere after that. Perhaps there should be a little more steering away from Chekov’s original work in order to make this play more coherent. But as long as Kronis still Directs and Choreographs and the actors stay the same, this could be an absolute dynamic play with a fabulous future.