Psych Ward! deoxyribonucleic acid? End of life issues. Tradition. Psychiatric Ward Self medication. Delusions. Hallucinations.
A brilliant mind: going, going, going...
Congestive heart failure.
The Turks did it. The Turks deny it.
John (John Perrin Flynn, founder of the Rogue Machine Theatre Company) is strapped securely to his hospital bed. Overheated in his delusions, he argues with a dark figure hidden in the shadows. “I’m a doctor,” he shouts. “I’m a doctor!” retorts Ahmet (Robertson Dean). It slowly becomes clear that we are sharing the hallucination residing in the mind of John, who carries deep within him the horrors of the Armenian massacre suffered by his family and a million and a half Armenians one hundred years ago: 100 APRILS. April 15, 1915.
In the uniform of an early 20th century Turkish soldier, Ahmet, the subject of John’s hallucination, represents the soulless Turks and playwright Leslie Ayvasian’s broad polemic to remember the Armenian holocaust unfolds. Reality and what are flights of John’s drug induced fantasies come and go. They come and go.
John has been suffering from life endangering maladies and through his office as a medical doctor has exacerbated his condition by self medicating and has again overdosed and again is imprisoned in the ‘psych ward.’ He’s been here before.
Director Michael Arabian’s choice to cast as John’s wife Beatrice with 100 APRILS playwright Leslie Ayvasian is questionable. Her credits are legion, but as with Flynn and Dean, each actor seems to be in a slightly different play. The Armenian plight, opening the wound annually to remind themselves of the horrors of the early twentieth century at the hands of the Turks expands through Beatrice. She is stoic and long suffering. Arlene (Rachel Sorsa), John and Beatrice’s blonde and blue eyed daughter, attempts to be of service and mostly fails. She becomes distraught and completely undone when stung by a bee.
The irony may be that John’s actual physician, Dr. Ahmet, is a Turkish doctor, who is extraordinarily practical. His questionable bedside manner erupts declaring coolly the facts of John’s congestive heart failure with advancing fluid in the lungs. John's imminent end of life is clearly the playwright’s attempt to call on the Turks again to take responsibility for the massacre and call it as she sees it: a holocaust. John declares that he has the evidence in the bed with him. In ‘his ass!’ Proof positive with notes in the margins of a journal that names names as he, in his hallucinations, declares that his family repaired the shoes of the Turkish marauders.
We spend the entire length of the play in a psychiatric ward. Psychosis! Where did the troubles start? They started, of course, a hundred years ago with disputed events that may never be resolved. Now comes to mind how we remember the events of our lives. Current research is being conducted that seems to point to the effect of extraordinary events on the lives of those who experience them first hand. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: PTSD! Research shows that traumatic events may create markers in the victims’ DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) and then hypothesizes that those markers may be passed along physically from generation to generation. Of course, with those impacted as the Armenians have been impacted, the issue of ‘never forget’ is literally taught and remembered from generation to generation with malice: which we witness in the character of John as well as with Arlene and Beatrice. The strong emotions evoked by remembering and in this play, literally acted upon by Beatrice and Arlene as they physically assault the Turkish doctor, leaves no room for doubt that these Armenian women have an extraordinary response to their upbringing. It may be in their DNA? They hold within them, the legacy of generations now long gone by, to carry out revenge for the Armenian holocaust. We are unsure that The Turk, Dr. Ahmet, may be about to prolong the massacre by hastening the death of John, evoking the attack by the women.
Psychosis. The accepted definition of psychosis is “A severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality.” Flynn’s character, John, the grandson of a victim of the terrors, hallucinates a Turkish soldier: a Turk who denies that the Turks were responsible. Does this play posit that DNA and indoctrination through family traditions, combined with self medication, bring about John’s “reality?” We have all been indoctrinated by our families, our culture, our religion, our traditions, our politics and a myriad of other influences that are inherent in every person’s upbringing. What is 'reality?' Are we either impaired or rational: ‘right’ or ‘wrong’? When we have been literally ‘brainwashed’ with any idea, be it to believe in God, seek peace and to love one another or “to hate all the people our relatives hate,” it falls to Critical Thinking to come to a Personal Truth: to find a way to Reason. Our own personal Reality.
As John succumbs, an odd blackout makes the audience believe that the play has ended. An unnecessary denouement follows as we see more of Nurse (icy Janet Song): the crisp attendant whose attitude takes no prisoners but does have a moment of humanity as Arlene attempts to show kindness with a gift. Inured to death, Nurse cleans up, exposing a literal truth declared by John in his rants while dying in the psychiatric ward.
This play, may be brilliant in its attempt to make a strong polemic statement bringing more to light the notion that we are all victims in one way or another. Thus, it is vital for every thinking person to reach out for their own conclusions beyond the snare of indoctrination: deliberate or subtle, insidious or obvious: an indoctrination that may not serve us well in the long run. Indeed, psychosis may be the underlying culprit after all.
100 APRILS by Leslie Ayvasian
Rogue Machine Theatre Company
at The MET Theatre
1089 Oxford Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90029
Through July 16, 2018
Non-tradtional days and times
Tickets and Information: