In ‘People, Places & Things,’ addiction remains a tough watch


Unsympathetic does now not start to describe Emma, the relapsing, cross-addicted antiheroine of Duncan Macmillan’s “Other folks, Puts & Issues.” Oblivious to what she places family members via, poisonous to her co-workers, mendaciously abusive to her remedy staff, Emma is the offensive sum of her dysfunctional portions.

A musical, in different phrases, this isn’t. And and not using a riveting flip in that central position, Studio Theatre’s “Other folks, Puts & Issues” could be a really agonizing sit down. However director David Muse has present in Kristen Bush a performer with a commanding seize of the bold job handy, which is to conjure Emma as her personal worst enemy within the means of restoration and but stay compelling sufficient that an target market doesn’t really feel solid out right into a barren region of indifference.

Bush fulfills the crucial project after which some, enlisting us convincingly as witnesses to the educate ruin of her persona’s existence, and on the similar time leaning into an target market’s dogged trust in redemption. “Other folks, Puts & Issues” walks us a long way out onto a limb with Emma, checking out our religion in each a resistant affected person and the efficacy of 12-step remedy techniques.

If the rest helps to keep one concerned on this reasonably acquainted dramatic setup, it’s the just about scientific unraveling of Emma’s pathology, the sense that we’re in it with Emma as she bamboozles the advisors in a British rehab heart and undermines the opposite addicts. She’s one cagey junkie. Macmillan — who in 2011 premiered any other of his works, “Lungs,” at Studio — takes us deep into territory that’s been amply coated sooner than, in characteristic movies, TV sequence, daylight self-help presentations and in-depth newspaper articles.

Muse’s manufacturing, staged type runway-style within the Victor Shargai Theatre between opposing banks of seats, gives different remarkable performances, in particular from Jahi Kearse as an addict with a extra grounded standpoint at the worth of remedy, and Jeanne Paulsen because the physician who gently encourages Emma’s higher impulses. You gained’t come clear of “Other folks, Puts & Issues” — a word right here denoting the myriad doable threats to stable sobriety — with a lot in the way in which of unpolluted edification. What you do get is a scrupulously clear-eyed account of 1 individual’s seduction through mind-altering narcotics, and the unpleasant battle to unfasten their grip.

If that and the unsparing portrait of Emma sound engrossing to you, you then’re a probably happy buyer for the 2½ hour drama. I’m hedging since the topic so lacks in novelty and simplest budges grudgingly from the predictable. Once we meet her, Emma is an actress in an Ibsen drama, blacking out mid-scene and shortly touchdown voluntarily in a medical institution; A lot of the play revolves now not simplest round Emma’s ambivalence a few treatment, but additionally the abilities at deception she’s honed onstage.

“Other folks, Puts & Issues” happens mainly within the medical institution’s remedy rooms, the place actors portraying the opposite addicts and alcoholics divulge their histories and role-play with one any other. The purpose is going through the reality, and reality is Emma’s kryptonite; she wears dishonesty as casually as a health facility robe. At the same time as Emma’s defenses are step by step torn down, although, Macmillan, to his credit score, gives Emma no nice epiphany. Or able solutions. There are ideas of a youth in an emotionally frigid house, however many of us live on a deficit of being concerned oldsters with out snorting chemical compounds or guzzling bottles of vodka.

The query of who loses keep watch over, and why, stays unsettled. The concrete topic of the play is the irreparable hurt Emma does to someone who trusts her. Most likely the tale’s maximum tough scene happens on the finish, when Emma’s oldsters — stirringly performed through David Manis and Paulsen — get an opportunity to talk their minds to her immediately. It’s certainly not what she expects to listen to, and through this level, the target market, as her unwitting accomplices, is a little shocked through the way it seems, too. That is the place “Other folks, Puts & Issues” departs maximum potently from the addiction-story components. The method does now not at all times pave the street to forgiveness.

Debra Sales space’s set items counsel the institutional blandness of an atmosphere with few social distractions, however one thing may well be carried out concerning the banging round one hears, offstage left and proper, as actors maintain the beds and different apparatus they wheel off and on. (A lengthen took place after probably the most props bumped right into a door and brought about some type of malfunction.) Lindsay Jones’s tune and Andrew Cissna’s lighting fixtures upload commendably to conveying the harshness of the adventure Emma has lower out for herself.

Bush’s uncompromising efficiency makes a distinctive feature of Emma’s nihilistic abandonment of accountability, her pushing others previous the boundaries in their forbearance. You be informed that even though restoration is a milestone success, now not the entirety in a single’s existence may also be recovered.

Other folks, Puts & Issues, through Duncan Macmillan. Directed through David Muse. Set, Debra Sales space; costumes, Helen Q. Huang; lighting fixtures, Andrew Cissna; sound and unique tune, Lindsay Jones; projections, Alex Basco Koch. With Nathan Whitmer, Lise Bruneau, Tessa Klein, Derek Garza, Lynnette R. Freeman, Maboud Ebrahimzadeh. About 2½ hours. Thru Dec. 11 at Studio Theatre, 1501 14th St. NW.

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