October 21, 2021
Astonishing to hear how a life is manifestly altered in the space of 5 months. It only takes one unexpected, transformative act to steer a life into the underside of society and that's exactly what happened to Dana Higginbotham in 1997. In 2015, Dana's unbelievable story was recorded, and that audio interview by Steve Cosson became the basis of the riveting and very disturbing Broadway show Dana H written by Lucas Hnath.
Seated in a cushioned turquoise blue chair positioned next to a large lady's handbag on the floor, Deirdre O'Connell moved her lips to Dana's recorded words describing a harrowing journey.
A chaplain on the psychiatric floor of a hospital, Dana Higginbotham communicated with disturbed people, and she was good at it.
When a former inmate, Jim, tired to commit suicide, she was called in to manage the hysterical man. This coalesced into a nightmare. Her life was forever changed after Jim was welcomed into her house that Christmas. For the next 5 months in 1998, Dana became the hostage of a nihilistic man entangled with the Aryan Brothers.
People always question why a "captive" does not escape, especially when encountering outside people. In this case, Jim belonged to a vast, underground web of people--primarily in Florida-- who were in a constant act of surveillance.
Her incessant panic over who was "friend" or "foe" reminded me of Oliver Stone's depiction of soldiers feeling disoriented and constantly surrounded by the enemy in Platoon.
What rocks your soul is the idea that this could happen to anyone. And now when I think about the January 6 uprising or read about another stolen human being, I'm chilled to the bone because this woman testified to an alternate reality manned by a network of zombie-like, nefarious outlaws.
Intricately directed by Les Waters, O'Connell demonstrated a master class in the application of perfectly choreographed pedestrian gestures. From moving her glasses off the top of her head to the bridge of her nose, rummaging in her bag, shifting weight, looking side to side, relaxing and tensing her shoulders, leaning forward and back -- all these physical cues made you believe every single word she uttered at the Lyceum Theater.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis