Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Mrs. Klein"

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note: entire contents copyright 1998 by Larry Stark

"Mrs. Klein"

by Nicholas Wright
Directed by Rick Lombardo

Scenic Design by Sarah Sullivan
Lighting Design by L. Stacy Eddy
Costume Design by Frances Nelson McSherry
Props Design by Ken Clothier
Production Stage Manager Johnie Steele

Mrs. Klein........Barbara Blossom
Paula....................Susanne Nitter
Melitta......................Dee Nelson

Traditional psychoanalysts always undergo analysis themselves, partly to explore the experience from the other side, and partly to make absolutely certain they won't unwittingly use their patients to act-out their own neuroses. The earliest practitioners of the art saw themselves as excellent raw-material with which to study the human psyche, and did so with ferocious, ruthless objectivity and insight. In Nicholas Wright's tensely claustrophobic play the year is 1934 and three women psychoanalysts turn them selves loose on each other. One hopes to start analysis with a master. One has a healthy practice but has unfinished business with her mother. The third --- that very mother --- is psychoanalytic pioneer Melanie Klein, who used as her first "patients" her two children, including her son who may have killed himself at 27. And that's just the start.

These three women accept the bizarre insights into the mind's shadow-world, where a car, or a cigar, is rarely "just" anything, and all three probe, regardless of pain, for the truth beneath mere facts that each must face and learn to live with. Mother and daughter in particular each have years of evasions to chew through, and their duel is harrowing to watch.

Susanne Nitter plays the youngest of this trio, often cast as mere spectator or referee. Dee Nelson is the wounding, wounded, vulnerable daughter fighting to maintain, or regain, or create an individuality all her own. And Barbara Blossom is the slashing, indomitable, arrogantly imperious Mrs. Klein, fighting for that for herself, for the others too, and perhaps for even more than that. Her single-minded, unforgiving demand of ultimate truth no matter what the cost paints her an unlovable, admirable heroine. She alone of the three is never beautiful. She projects her German background not so much with pronunciations as with an arogant, analytical rasp and an intense chin-forward scowl. As she will give no comfort, she expects none, and the other two bend, not always eagerly, to her iron will.

The first half of Nicholas Wright's play sets the scene, paints in characters, defines terms. Then, after the act-break, the tightly-wound situation springs with dizzying swiftness into life. Director Rick Lombardo has shaped this duel into a rising spiral of intensity, with the quiet spectator emerging into action at long last to provide both the climax and the resolution that allow Doctor Klein to pursue her life's work with unruffled concentration. This is exactly the kind of night of original, exciting theater that people have come to expect The New Repertory Theatre to provide.


"Mrs. Klein" (till 12 April)
54 Lincoln Street, NEWTON HIGHLANDS

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide