When you hear the phrase "yellow wallpaper" do you cringe/gasp/shiver in a visceral psychological reaction, or does it just sound like a bad design choice?
CoHo Theatre's premiere of The Yellow Wallpaper—based on a 1892 story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman that's notoriously force-fed to Lit 101 students—opens Friday. And it promises to blow, or at least addle, your mind.
The semi-autobiographical psychological thriller follows another woman named Charlotte, who's suffering from postpartum depression and imagining things in her bedroom wallpaper.
At 10 pm rehearsal in early January, Wallpaper creator Grace Carter crawled like a feral animal around CoHo's black stage, her hair still dripping water from the hair-washing scene before. At the sight of Chris Harder, who plays the husband, Carter's Charlotte gripped the pencil in her hand like a dagger.
Playwright Sue Mach and director Phillip Cuomo—an Oregon Book Award-winner and CoHo's Artistic Director, respectively—looked on to give final feedback. Together with Carter, they're one of the strongest trios in Portland theater right now, supported in no small part by choreographer Paige McKinney (of Portland Experimental Theatre Ensemble).
Workshopping a more contemplative scene, Carter and Cuomo were still trying to capture that haunting suspense that makes Gilman's story stick in students' heads.
Charlotte: "Jenny, what do you wish for in your life?"
Jenny: "A family, good health, adequate safety"
Charlotte: "Nothing more? I have everything in the world, why can't I will myself into discussing patterns in the china even for five minutes"
Jenny: "…they do have a fascinating collection here, don't they?"
"Break!" Cuomo hits his copy of the script. "'Nothing more? Nothing more?' That's the shift." This crew promises a lot more.
GO: The Yellow Wallpaper is at CoHo Theater, 2257 NW Raleigh St., 220-2646. 7:30 pm Thursday-Saturday and 2 pm Sunday, Jan 15-Feb. 6. $28.