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Hysterical - A drama with cheering

by Robert Abrams
August 24, 2016
Players Theatre
115 Macdougal Street
New York, NY 10012
212-475-1449
Tweet: Hysterical at FringeNYC: a drama with cheering, a drama worth cheering. https://www.exploredance.com/4482
Hysterical, a drama with cheering, was believable at its final late night performance during the New York International Fringe Festival. The tension between the five girls on the Bandits' high school cheer squad was gripping and sustained, relieved by a day-glo humor.

Some of the squad become afflicted by a Tourette's-like malady. The malady was presented with a certain amount of comic framing, but as a stutterer, I felt a sense of recognition: a part of one's life that is studied, but simultaneously unknown, both by therapists and oneself. The show takes the audience inside the girls' lives as they try to understand what is happening to them and why their community reacts, sympathetically or hysterically, sometimes while balanced at the top of a pyramid.

I don't claim to be an expert in cheer choreography, but I found the rhyming spoken-song of the cheers to be intelligent and intelligible. The moves well signified the dance form, and there were at least several leaps that were impressive. The extension of the moves may not have been quite what an actual cheer squad could do, but in the small space of the theater, if the extension had been much bigger, they would have collided with the rigging for the stage lights. When they turn Hysterical into a motion picture, they can add an extra two weeks of rehearsal and perfect their extensions. Other than that, I can't think of much else the show would need, if and when it moves to a bigger production. Maybe a participatory demonstration of cheer choreography to get the audience out of their seats and moving, either after the show or integrated into the action during the show? Maybe little packets of tissues conveniently placed at each seat? I found that as I was drawn into the world of the show, I cared about the characters. My eyes were involuntarily moist more than once.

The 200 seat house was fairly full for a 9:30 pm curtain on a Wednesday night. The next time Hysterical is presented, there is room for you to join the squad. Get your pom-poms ready.


Hysterical, presented by Fifth Wall Productions, was written by Elenna Stauffer and directed by Deborah Wolfson. The energetic cast consisted of Samantha Debicki, Roxy Reynolds, Nadia Brown, Miranda Noelle Wilson and Haley Beauregard. Stage management and light and sound design was by Hadley Todoran. The company manager was Ellen Mischinski. Costume design was by Emily Abma. The stunt director was Cicily Daniels.
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