nytheatre.com review by Jo Ann Rosen
January 13, 2006
It is impossible to leave Syndrome without giving thanks for the ability to do so. For, in this excellent, nimble production written by Kirk Wood Bromley and presented by Inverse Theater and NEUROFest, we see the effects of Tourette's and how difficult it can be to leave the comfort and safety of a familiar room.
Syndrome takes place in a small, spare room, like one you might imagine in a 19th century asylum, with only a plain wooden chair present. The telephone rings and the character, Egon, does not pick up. Instead, he allows the recording to kick in, giving the audience a hint of who he is, and illustrating that, yes, in addition to everything else, he appreciates a bit of irony. Egon listens to the message from his mother—please, please join me and your father for dinner—which sets him off for an evening of Tourette’s Syndrome, manifesting itself in many ways: multiple personalities, rage attacks, bipolar disorder, echolalia (repeating), cursing, and, of course, tics. It is both highly theatrical and very educational, because notably, Timothy McCown Reynolds delivers a mind boggling performance—a visible and convincing reason why he cannot join his parents for dinner… or go anywhere comfortably save a neurological convention where all the attendees suffer from the eradication of their inhibitions.
In his explanation, Egon battles with Syndrome, his alter ego, for time and space, with Egon often losing. As he says, he is like a tourist in his own body, and Reynolds is adept at showing how painfully aware his character is of his own spectacle while having no control over it. The battle is not simply neurological. It is Emotional and Physical with large initial caps. He takes the audience on a journey of the disorder—its onset at age 11 when his father’s lip smacking at the dinner table reverberates until Egon cannot stand it any longer to the actual diagnosis at 26. Denial by his father, who suffers a milder form of Tourette’s without admitting it, does not prevent his mother from dragging Egon to doctors, who prescribe a variety of drugs with varying degrees of success. Syndrome deplores the drugs because they shrink his sphere.
Reynolds performs this physically demanding role with the agility of an Olympic gymnast, allowing the audience to see what is normally unavailable to them. Ten minutes into the performance, he has built a sweat and can slick his long curls back as if he has just washed them. He rolls his tongue around Bromley’s rapid fire wordplay, his rhyming, rhythmic language, as if it were his own.
For his part, Bromley captures the disorder close up: bursts of energy, frustrations, desire, self-loathing, and, yes, humor. Jeff Nash’s lighting heightens and enhances the script. John Gideon, responsible for sound, might have enhanced the answering machine messages for clarity, although they sound like the disembodied, often muffled, voices that are typically delivered at home. Karen Flood designed costumes. All in all, an energetic performance and fascinating evening.