- The Washington Times - Friday, July 25, 2003

The late British playwright Sarah Kane (1971-1999) may have been a friend and devotee of Harold Pinter’s, but her play “Crave” seems like it owes more to beat poet Allen Ginsberg. Her play’s gush of overlapping words and moods recalls “Howl” with a dash of “Kaddish” thrown in.

Under the direction of Cheryl Faraone, “Crave” is more like a prose-poem — a yowl from the gut, the frantic cry of a soul in anguish. Unlike Mr. Ginsberg’s “Kaddish,” Miss Kane’s play does not pay tribute to the dead, but to death itself. Death is a treasured destination, an end to horror and suffering, a balm to thinking and feeling too much. It is a tantalizing taste just out of reach. “Death is my lover. He wants to move in,” says one character (the play’s four characters are named A, B, C, and M), and that statement could be “Crave’s” emblem. For Miss Kane, death is the ultimate desire, and the craving for it is nearly sexual.

If you’ve ever suffered from chronic depression, “Crave” will seem all too familiar. The setting is minimal — four chairs arranged in a diamond pattern on a bare floor. In the chairs sit A (Stephen F. Schmidt), B (Ben Correale), C (Tricia Erdmann) and M (Julie-Ann Elliott), their bodies twisted in various forms of distress.

The play is an exploration of the fragmented, overlapping voices in the playwright’s head. Disparate as these voices are, they are nevertheless united in their yearning for death, for release.

A is a middle-aged man kinked by his desire for young girls. He is a stalker, someone who becomes so obsessed with a young woman he wants to submerge himself into her life to the point where he disappears. He delivers a frenzied soliloquy about his fantasy submissive relationship that is both repellent and beautifully impassioned.

The object of A’s desire, C, is both repulsed and enticed by his singular devotion. C is the teenaged part of Miss Kane’s psyche — an abused girl, a sexual object before her time, a tangled mess of eating disorders, depression, anxiety (one of her monologues has her describing herself as “full of white larvae”).

She longs for control and peace, yet at the same time C is turned on by all the attention she receives.

M is a caustic older woman fretting over losing her looks and youth and desperate to have a baby. She is consumed by fears about aging and dying poor. M serves as the barren mother — fighting against her maternal instinct — in Miss Kane’s subconscious.

Her foil is B, a sultry street punk. Young, gorgeous, streetwise and manipulative, B is the drinking and drugging, risk-taking, dangerous side of Miss Kane. He is more than happy to serve as M’s gigolo, until those danged emotions get in the way.

Minimal and elliptical, “Crave” moves like a fugue or a looped rant about the horror of being alive. The voices in Miss Kane’s head are brought to distinct life by the actors — in particular Mr. Schmidt as the stalker and Miss Elliott as the older woman — and they all fight among themselves about love, desire and abuse.

Yet the play is ultimately one-track. It is drunken with death — death as the answer, death as the stilling of these warring voices. After a while, you wonder if it is a play or a multivoiced suicide note.

It is hard to review “Crave” or Miss Kane’s career without thinking about how, at 28, she committed suicide by hanging herself by her shoelaces in a bathroom stall.

“Crave,” in this light, seems like a naked and disturbed cry for help — the work of a talented, deeply depressed mind.


WHAT: “Crave” by Sarah Kane

WHERE: Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney

WHEN: Running in repertory with the Potomac Theatre Festival’s “Piaf” and “No Man’s Land” Sundays through Saturdays. Through Aug. 10.



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