Skip to content

Split Psyches

THE DISSOCIATES by Dorothy Dittrich
Studio 16
August 11-26, 2006
Sea Theatre

Who among us has never been brought up sharply by something we have just blurted out, and thought to ourselves "where on earth did that come from? That just wasn't me speaking!" I know that within my psyche lives many different I entities; the mother-me, the teacher-me, the intellectual-me, the-romantic me, as well as a few entities that perhaps I don't like too much (whose identities I'll keep to myself for now). But what would happen if you reject and eject so many parts of yourself from your psyche that you virtually obliterate your identity? In Dorothy Dittrich's new play, "The Dissociates", Alex (Wendy Noel) plays out this multiple suicide by actually slitting her wrists. As Alex, discharged from the hospital, tends her neglected garden "“ yes, the play is loaded with metaphor - her six alter-egos hover around her, unseen and unheard by Alex's consciousness, to provide their own unique commentaries on her state.

It's a clever concept and Dittrich's penchant for the sharp apt phrase is ably supported by a talented ensemble. Roz (Jenn Griffin) is the hard-bitten, cigarette smoking cynic, balanced by the kinder, gentler Irene (Eileen Barrett), who ironically actually urged Alex to do the wrist slitting bit. That's a pretty drastic way to cry for help! Naomi Wright stalks across the stage as B.D. the existential intellectual who rejects Sartre for Camus while Catriona Leger, the weepy Mary, lights up the stage when she switches from tears to a smile. Alex McMorran doubles as psychiatrist and Man, and Ruth McIntosh, as the Buddhist Nun presides serenely over all of them with a running litany of meditative jargon.

The arc of the play follows Alex's journey from fragmented psyche to the reintegration of her disparate selves into a whole person but the conclusion of the play left me with questions. What really helps Alex complete her journey? Perhaps because the various issues of lesbian politics, for example the recital of film portrayals of lesbians, distracted from Alex's fight against her personal demons, her transformation seems less than real. On the other hand, I confess that I also do wonder why women's clubs so often meet in basements or have to share space with daycares.

It's a privilege to be present at the birth of a new creative work and it is a particular pleasure to see work from our local playwriting community in production. This piece is poignant and thought-provoking and Bill Devine's sensitive direction allows Dittrich's bittersweet humour to triumph over the sadness underlying this piece.