’The Patient’ | Credit: Courtesy

Shay Munroe, star and co-author of the new play The Patient, has written herself a doozy of a role in Anna Hughes, an actress with dissociative identity disorder. Director and co-author Peter Frisch has captained an excellent cast (including Brian Harwell, Justin Davanzo, Meredith McMinn, and Nick Ehlen) to a mostly successful new production.

There’s a wild quality about new work: The material has never been tested in front of an audience or reviewed by critics. Without tried-and-true productions behind it to set expectations, a play has the potential to sail, float, or sink spectacularly. The Patient sails in a meandering (but intriguing) circle. Anna Hughes experiences a mental break — and brings the audience with her into a fantasy world with indeterminate boundaries. She is an unreliable point of focus in the story (she’s unable, in some cases, to distinguish reality) so the play has little choice but to be widely open-ended. The question that lingers (“What is reality?”) might be an unsatisfying ending for some audience members, but exciting for those who love a Twilight Zone–esque “aha!” moment before the final curtain.

The acting is top-notch. Shay in particular commands the stage with her portrayal of not only Anna, but also her three dissociated personalities (all characters Anna has played in the past): Babe from Crimes of the Heart; Ruth from The Woods; and Jodine from Frisch’s own adaptation of American Dreams. Each character has distinct physicality and vocal tendencies, and Munroe shuffles through them on a dime — an impressive achievement in performance. The rest of the characters are mostly scenic in that they don’t have much to do (the play could probably be easily re-tooled into a one- or two-person show) but McMinn does get a meaty scene of substance at the end. The Patient gives Munroe room to run, and she doesn’t disappoint.

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