This one woman show about ayuhuasca took some getting used to, but once she fully engaged the sold out Center Stage Theater audience, writer/performer Josie Hyde took the audience on a real trip, complete with disorientation, stimulation, and even a glimpse or two of enlightenment. Set in a time in the author’s life when she was yearning for release from a series of ailments that included chronic insomnia, the piece begins as a story of disillusionment. On her first attempt at achieving elevated consciousness, Hyde feels trapped and deceived by a sketchy shaman and his too-easily-led clients. But soon she is remanded to the care of a more authentic figure, and, once the sacred plant has been ingested, all manner of psychological heaven and hell breaks loose.
The staging, which included both striking psychedelic background projections and an excellent original soundtrack, relied on a blend of performance styles. At times, Hyde sounded like a female version of her mentor Spalding Gray, the great actor and monologist of New York’s Wooster Group. At other times, her inflections recalled those of another icon of the New York 1980s, Laurie Anderson. Both influences reflect well on Hyde’s taste in performance, and they worked well with the material. In terms of the physical performance, the show was more uneven, with Hyde seemingly caught between the impulses she was feeling to really dance and the necessity of keeping the verbal stream clear and steady. In addition to the spoken word, Hyde also sang a number of original songs which, while somewhat diminished by their dependence on a small handful of rhetorical strategies—especially an over insistence on simple, close rhymes—nevertheless managed to capture and transmit a sense of the immediacy of the original experience. Judging by the response of the sold out audience, we will be seeing things through this Mirror again soon.