note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Beverly Creasey
A dear friend killed herself in 1993 and it still seems like I just heard the news; so Sarah Kane's desperately touching suicide poem/play called "Crave" hit me in the solar plexus.
The Nora Theatre's exquisitely staged production, directed by Elaine Vaan Hogue, elicited a deep sadness on my part for people (like playwright Kane and my beloved Carol) who crave kindness so badly, and find cruelty instead.
"Crave" bears witness: Most people who kill themselves don't leave a note let alone a play, so Kane gives us the opportunity to see inside her head/heart. "Crave" is full of wry, sardonic psychiatric observations like "You look reasonably happy for someone who's not" or sounding like Oscar Wilde "The outside world is vastly over-rated." "Crave" is full of revelations of the psychiatric kind like "although she cannot remember, she cannot forget" or Kane's pithy description of herself as "Emotional plagiarist, stealing other people's pain."
What "Crave" does so eloquently is put mental illness to poetry, and vice versa. Kane evidently spent a good deal of time in a mental hospital absorbing the "process" and the language of depression. She knows the earmarks well of a truly deep depression, and she works them beautifully into her poetry: the ritual repetition of a phrase like "What have they done to me?"; the magical thinking in "To be free of memory..."; The projection and denial in "I'm not ill. I just know life is not worth living"; and the numbing "I feel like nothing."
The Nora production at The Boston Playwrights' Theatre has four striking performances in Anne Gottlieb, Laura Lanfranchi, Eric Radford Weiss and Steven Barkheimer as characters/participants called A, B, C and M, but one performance jumps out. Gottlieb captures the despair and visceral suffering of depression...which pierced right through my heart.
John Malinowski's looming gigantic painting of Michaelangelo's "The Creation of Adam" didn't make sense to me; this is a play about decomposition and destruction, not creation. But J. Hagenbuckle's pounding strikes of finality gave me the chills.
The saddest thing about "Crave" is the fact that writing about her pain didn't help Sarah Kane. How bleak her life must have been. The theater and the world --- think of the John Donne quote --- are diminished by that loss.