When We Were Young And Filled With Fear
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
July 27, 2007
Jack Ferver's new performance art piece When We Were Young and Filled with Fear is evocative and entertaining. It's exactly the kind of show that Dixon Place's HOT! Festival does best.
It's also fairly difficult to describe. Some of it is dance/movement, performed with precision and grace by Ferver, Darrin Wright, and Liz Santoro. Some of it is textual: there's a long monologue in the middle delivered by Santoro in which a conflicted young woman has what amounts to a nervous breakdown right in front of us; and there's another monologue at the beginning in which Ferver reflects on where he hoped he'd be in his life/career at this point and where he actually is. Both are scathingly funny and bitter at the same time—compact, premature midlife crises placed under a microscope.
One section, near the end, is almost a miniature one-act play. In it, Santoro plays a therapist/self-help guru and Wright and Ferver play a married couple. Ferver's character, the wife, has issues with her husband. In this piece we watch the therapist guide her toward release and resolution (after bringing the husband to a metaphorical "safe place" where he will presumably be protected from his wife's outburst). The dialogue here sounds so authentically like psychobabble that I wouldn't be surprised if it was lifted from some case study (Ferver tells us he uses an excerpt in the play from Dr. Harville Hendrix's book Getting the Love You Want). What's best about this segment is Ferver's amazing performance as the wife: he inhabits her desperation utterly and yet manages to comment on the triteness and self-indulgence of her circumstance at the same time, so that the scene is authentically heart-rending and pointedly silly at the same time.
I should mention, by the way, that Ferver plays the entire show dressed in a white slip: not in drag, as his bare hairy legs remind us, but nevertheless confronting gender subtly. When he plays the wife in the scene I just mentioned, he's definitely portraying a woman, but elsewhere in the show, in various exchanges with Wright, he could be playing a woman or a gay man, and the point quickly becomes that it doesn't matter. When We Were Young and Filled with Fear amplifies the sexual, social, and emotional anxieties of all young people, of whatever proclivity, and therein lies its strength and appeal.