Directed by Cindy Sibilsky
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited
Douglas de Souza’s “666 DSM” concludes its brief run at the 59E59 East to Edinburgh Festival and prepares to face its opening at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August 2014. Mr. de Souza and his director/producer Cindy Sibilsky have several challenges to face and overcome before rubber hits runway in The Burgh.
In six vignettes, writer/performer Douglas de Souza rants and raves (literally in vignette number 5) about the treatment of those diagnosed (or undiagnosed) to be mentally ill by society, government, religious organizations, and the psychiatric/medical community –the “Illuminati.” Mr. de Souza is a spirited and gifted actor who is capable of portraying a variety of characters giving each a specific persona. However, his script does not give him as an actor much to work with.
“666 DSM” unfortunately contains nothing new about how the mentally ill are treated by society and the medical establishment. Since at least the 5th century B.C.E., philosophers and physicians have been grappling with the presence and provenance of mental illness. Hippocrates shifted the treatment of mental illness from religious and superstitious constructs to changing the mentally ill person’s environment or occupation. In the Middle Ages, the treatment of mental illness shifted back to focus on the religious parameters of the condition.
The playwright’s concerns about privilege are also not new. Throughout the history of mental illness and its diagnosis and treatment, persons of privilege have been in control of the matrices of both diagnosis and treatment. These persons of privilege include physicians, governments, and clergy (among others). It is difficult to ask the audience to “think outside the box” when the members of the audience are not given challenging constructs to assimilate. The text seems to be in search of an identity: it is prose, poetry, or prose-poetry? Mr. de Souza’s delivery of his own work does not help to clarify this concern.
Perhaps the actor would have fared better with more exacting direction. Cindy Sibilsky, who also produces “666 DSM,” provides sparse direction and consistently makes odd choices for staging the piece. Additionally, the play runs about fifteen minutes over its target of 60 minutes. Given the tight scheduling at the Edinburgh Festival, both actor and director will have to tighten up the performance. Eliminating or shortening the psychedelic projections during interludes would be a start. Douglas de Souza is more than capable of changing costumes and getting into character right on stage. Sometimes less is better.