The moment you walk in the theater, McPherson Madness assails you with its world, trying to become your reality. Cast members ask for change, hand out programs as if they’re flyers for the Occupy D.C. movement, and many converge in that now clichéd “drum” circle (this one was really a guitar circle).
While definitely a strong ensemble cast, McPherson Madness focuses on one woman played by two women–Dreama (Jen Bevan and Tina Ghandchilar). Dreama mans the Occupy Information Desk because she’s a master of organization in anything except her own life. This life includes a young son who she has effectively abandoned for full-time activism, and this separation serves as the play’s main conflict. What’s better for a child? The physical warmth of a mother, or improved living standards brought about by a radical workaholic? It’s a question that I don’t have an answer for; with her two Dreamas, playwright and real-life Occupy activist Kelly Canavan might be suggesting you need a little of both.
I can’t make that assumption definitely, because I was honestly confused by the doubling. My program tells me Bevan was playing Info Dreama, while Ghandchilar was playing regular Dreama. Not only did the two actresses not resemble one another physically (outside of wardrobe), but they felt like two very different people who nevertheless were doing the same things; it was the same Dreama flirting with Tim (Sha Golanski), and the same Dreama calling for mic check. Not understanding the purpose of this theatrical choice did make the show somewhat hard to follow.
But it’s not for lack of trying to really immerse me in the world. The ensemble, as stated, was very strong, and even the most minor characters had their own bits of business. As I grew to feel like I knew these characters—that these were real people I’d met on metro before–the more I wanted Dreama to stay. I think it was because what I saw on stage was so full of life, and what was beyond the playing area felt so abstract.
This is an interesting story that felt incomplete, and I hope that McPherson Madness’ run at the Fringe helps Canavan and company figure out where to go next with this interesting piece.
Running Time: 75 minutes.
2013 Capital Fringe Show Preview: ‘McPherson Madness’ by Kelly Canavan