Goldfish Thinking

Kathleen Akerley premieres another of her enjoyable head-scratchers. This time it’s a Law & Order procedural hopelessly warped by a shot of Viennese-school psychoanalysis, as well as automatic writing in the form of Mad Libs—all of it marked by Akerley’s signature physicality.

Heather Haney plays a young law student whose dreams (peopled by Caryl Churchillesque shapeshifters like a comic Chairman Mao [Jesse Terrill] with an inscrutable accent) threaten to overtake her waking life. She is prone to what you might call reverse auditory hallucinations, as she will make a cutting remark about someone and not remember having said it a moment later. Compelled to serve as her own Hercule Poirot—did she do something, say something, think something, awake or asleep, that caused a man to die?—she argues with a fellow student (the affable, goofy Michael Glenn) about which of her thoughts she can call her own, and which are archetypal bubblings from the collective unconscious.

Akerley explores the interesting theme of re-presentation through the metaphor of courtroom protocol that requires a defendant to remain silent and to express her thoughts only through her advocate, her mouthpiece, her representative. Abstruse as much of this is, nevertheless Akerley’s writing remains grounded and personal, as when she writes of a traffic altercation that ends uncertainly.

The necessities of the script’s many scene changes, as Haney’s law student slips from dreams to day and back again, at times tax Longacre Lea’s limited technical resources. And the significance of a point of law, the distinction between contractual acceptance (which occurs when given) and rejection (which occurs when received) still has me mystified.

  • Goldfish Thinking, written and directed by Kathleen Akerley, Longacre Lea, Callan Theatre, Washington