Scotch and Madness at Alleyway
Jacques Lacan, the great French psychoanalyst, maintained that the unconscious mind is structured like a language. Within our unconscious, he argued, one item stands in for another in a signifying process driven by encoding and decoding. I was reminded of this proposition while watching "Scotch and Madness," the new play by Tatiana Gelfand and Paul Jensen at Alleyway Theatre.
Here we meet Fred, played by Timothy Goehrig, who is working a crisis hotline on Christmas Eve. Lonely, despondent and unhappy in his job, Fred cracks open a bottle of J&B scotch he had intended as a gift for a relative. Fred’s own problems and memories begin to blend with those of his troubled callers, and reality starts to slip away. His uncanny capacity to plumb the depths of his callers’ problems and to decode their own lack of self-awareness is not a talent that he seems to be able to apply to himself.
Goehrig is excellent in this marathon of a role that requires him to be in every scene as he shifts between realities.
The playwrights introduce us to an array of characters who represent callers, members of Fred’s family and even Fred’s younger self.
Gelfand directs the production, and she focuses on the clear presentation of the script’s language, rather than in the story’s graceful movement through space and time, or its fluctuations between consciousness and unconsciousness. That is to say, the audience is on its own to decode the shifts between Fred’s clients and the family members they metaphorically represent.