Cabaret Theatre presents an original play on anxiety disorders
"The Panic Attack Play" is an original project coordinated by Celine Dirkes and Sara Ferreira that was performed at the Cabaret Theatre on Saturday, Jan. 28. A cast of six actors banned together to inform their audience about panic attacks and other anxiety disorders.
A minimalist stage was set with a few chairs and a single pretzel jar downstage-right filled with prescription pills. Upon entry, the audience members were given a pamphlet including production information, mental health resources and a trigger warning for those who suffer from anxiety themselves. An immediate, somber feeling was heavy in the theater.
Coordinators Dirkes and Ferreira introduced the show as flight attendants and acted as if we were on a commercial flight rather than in a theater. The play was about to take the audience on an emotional journey.
It began with a sequence featuring short, jumpy and repetitive dialogue mimicking a panic attack. Words including “my chest,” “I can’t” and “breathe” were quickly passed from actor to actor, raising the tension in the room. This sequence was recurring a few times throughout the evening.
Each actor performed a monologue that showed anxiety disorders from different perspectives. Some played through the eyes of a sufferer, others from the eyes of friends and family members.
Group scenes depicted anxiety triggered by school settings and being overwhelmed, and even took viewers into the mind of someone suffering from a panic attack. In between each movement, the actors would write words on the walls such as “drugs,” “instinct” and “primal” in chalk.
Gorgeous lighting changes helped carry the audience in and out of scenes. In moments of eerie green and blue lighting, one can’t help but feel separated from the outside world, giving the audience a personal look into what anxiety may feel like.
Coordinator Dirkes delivered the final monologue describing anxiety and depression as a light dimmer.
Her monologue informed the audience that many people suffer from multiple mental illnesses, and she took us through a heart-wrenching personal story that left a majority of the audience in tears.
In the final sequence, the actors drew all over the stage and walls with sidewalk chalk, covering themselves in the room with technicolor dust clouds. The negative words on the walls were replaced with positive ones including “safe,” “music” and “flowers.”