Fringe review: The Yellow Wallpaper

By John Lyle Belden

Based on an 1892 short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” presented by Earlham Theatre Department at the Marrott Center, tells of a woman confined for a “rest cure” in an upstairs room with bars on the windows and apparently a hideous pattern on the walls.

Our subject and narrator is presented by three actresses simultaneously, demonstrating her slowly fracturing mind. She starts to see odd, changing patterns in the wallpaper, eventually becoming sure that a woman is trapped within. At the back of the stage is a yellow wall, with subtle markings within its chaotic pattern that has us in the audience sharing in the growing madness.

The woman’s husband and physician, “John,” is a disembodied voice. This makes him seem at first godlike, but reveals him to be more distant and (despite or due to the state of 19th-century medicine) clueless until it is too late.

This haunting early classic of feminist literature, with elements reminiscent of H.P. Lovecraft, clocks in at around 30 minutes, yet is intense enough to be worth your ticket. You could use the extra time to get something to eat before the next show – just, wherever you go, don’t look too closely at the walls.

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