Hooked is collection of monologues and a plethora of woes.
Written by Carolyn Smart, Hooked was first published as a book of poems tackling the personalities of seven troubled women of the 20th Century.
Adapted into a 80-minute one-woman theatre show, Nicky Guadagni narrates stories of violence, creativity, madness and abuse.
The wardrobe consists of a simple black cocktail dress and no shoes. Lighting director Rebecca Picherack does a marvelous job throughout the dramatic prose with vivid special and spotlight cross-fades. At one point, as Guadagni sits on the floor, light reflects off of the flat, black stage and transforms the space into a subtle cool pool of blue wash.
The first lady on the docket is Myra Hindley, who is infamously known for the Moors murders. Along with her partner, Ian Brady, the pair brutally butchered at least five children in Britain in the 1960s. Guadagni’s crazed stare and prolonged open mouth is enough to make any audience member feel uncomfortable. This performance sets the stage for what will be a long line of depressing rants.
The second is one of six well-to-do daughters who runs off to be by the side of Adolf Hitler. Guadagni is successful at performing a disillusioned and obsessed woman who survives suicide and remains forever shattered. Guadagni embraces this crazed character as much as she embraces her audience. As she walked past, many audience members shifted further away from her.
The third is Southern belle Zelda Fitzgerald, alias, the alcoholic wife of F. Scott. This performance made me dizzy as Guadagni paced back and forth with a not-so-convincing southern drawl. This was the only character where I had a “who cares” moment.
Fourth is the painter Dora Carrington. Carrington was in love with Lytton Strachey, a Victorian writer who was gay. Guadagni puts a lot of tenderness into this performance as she touches on women’s ignorance of female physiology. This is an interesting character who somewhat transcends the idea of marriage, as Carrington marries someone else.
Guadagni shapes the last three characters into more inspiring individuals, giving special care to highlight each woman’s unique vulnerability.
Fifth is Elizabeth Smart, a bright poet from Ottawa who lives up to her last name. Smart falls in love with married poet George Barker whom she has never met. During this monologue, the dialogue reflects the character bucking back anger and grief through writing.
Sixth is Carson McCullers who brings us back to the South. The dark humour begins to pick up, and wake the audience from their already over-taxed patience. At this point in the play I had almost lost track of monologues, but luckily the best was saved for last.
Lastly, Jane Bowles, the bubbliest of them all, laughs through the pain of family failure and mental health. Guadagni synchronizes her limp with the beautiful rhyme scheme, as the dialogue dances along with the staccato pluckings of an acoustic guitar. This was the saving grace to end on.
While Guadagni gives a commanding performance, the brutal amount of substance abuse is a little too much to digest.
Hooked is playing at Theatre Passe Muraille until May 10. For more information visit www.passemuraille.ca.