Entries in Sigmund freud (2)


Review by Ira Bauer of An Attempt to Heal in the Contemporary World

Ira Bauer wrote this review on behalf of and addressed to a Reichian group headed up by James Demeo, PhD, in Ashland, Oregon (www.orgonelab.org).   Reposted here with his permission.  And yes, he is right -- Although I'm definitely not a Reichian, I was trying to be fair as possible -- exploring what was humorous about Reich, what was problematic, what was tragic, and what may have been (possibly) true.   

An Attempt to Heal in the Contemporary World

Written and Directed by Professor David E. Tolchinsky

Reviewed by Ira Bauer

Dear Group,

About a month ago, Jim asked if anyone in the New York area would be able to see, and review, a play about Reich being shown in New York City.  It was presented by the New York Fringe Festival, a reputable organization that is known for putting on high-quality productions.  The main purpose was to see if Reich’s work would be misrepresented, as is most often the case, usually combined with a good dose of malice.  So, with some trepidation, and trying to keep an open mind, I took on the assignment.

The play was labeled a dark comedy, which raised some doubts for me about how the subject would be treated.  I’m happy to report that I was pleasantly surprised.  As for those who think that anycomedic presentation of Reich’s work is a sacrilege, I would simply say that there’s always a time and place for levity (if done tastefully), and that was certainly true of this production.

I found the play to be entertaining, with just the right touch of comedy, superbly acted and mostly accurate in the presentation of Reich’s characterological and energetic concepts (with a few, I’m sure, unintentional misrepresentations), and in no way did I feel there was a subliminal message to sabotage Reich’s reputation.  In fact, it was clear that the playwright had done his homework and went out of his way to present Reich’s ideas as honestly as possible. 

From what I gathered, Mr. Tolchinsky has never been in orgone therapy and is not a trained scientist. There wasn’t a Q&A session to find out how he became interested in Reich, but, clearly, he was impressed enough to incorporate Reich’s work into his art form.  He is a professor of playwriting and screenwriting at Northwestern University – School of Communication, is highly respected in his field, and has won awards as Best Director in a number of venues.  For those who are interested in his work, I would refer you to the website: https://communication.northwestern.edu/faculty/DavidTolchinsky 

In the play, there were three stories running simultaneously:  one had to do with a young couple experiencing severe, increasing physical symptoms, looking for answers from traditional allopathic medicine; the second was the husband’s relationship to his psychiatrist father; and the third was the story of Reich and his unique definition and approach to health, raising the possibility that Western civilization has been barking up the wrong tree with its mechanistic approach to well-being. 

In the background, running parallel with each of these stories, were film clips from the movie The Incredible Shrinking Man, which cleverly gave the play a more three-dimensional feel.  It provided insight how adversity can bring out our best instincts, humbling us into realizing that we’re just actors on the stage of a gigantic, sometimes incomprehensible, universe.

The director had the actors play multiple roles.  The character transitions were seamless and credibly done.  The actor who played the husband also acted as a narrator, often interjecting and clarifying certain misconceptions about Reich’s work, e.g., letting the audience know that the Orgone Box (displayed on stage) was not a “sex machine” (like the “Orgasmatron” depicted by Woody Allen in his movie, Sleeper).  He also made sure to let us know that “healthy” sex meant having sex free of armor, expressed with love, and without any sadistic or masochistic tendencies.  Over the course of the play, this commentary helped me trust the author’s intent to portray Reich’s work responsibly.     

In the Reich thread of the story, Freud was superbly portrayed as a Latino tough guy with a riotously heavy accent, who lambasted Reich about his energetic theories.  He kept telling Reich that his character analysis was brilliant, but that orgone energy was just a “bunch of shit!“  If only Reich would give up the energetic stuff and stick with the “metaphysical stuff,” there would be no controversy, and Reich could be heir to all that Freud created.  After berating Reich endlessly and failing to persuade him, Freud consoled himself by doing some “lines” of cocaine.  Funny stuff!

The actor who played Reich did an excellent job.  At first blush, and considering the comedic tone of the play, one could easily have gotten the impression that Reich was a madman.  However, with the director’s steady hand, Reich was ultimately portrayed as a passionate scientist and physician who stayed loyal to his beliefs to the bitter end, where unfortunately he died in prison.

On stage there was an impressive replica of a Cloudbuster, as well as an Orgone Box. The Cloudbuster was used in reference to the Oranur Experiment (which could have been better described: “Reich mixed a couple of things together, and things went haywire!”).  The Cloudbuster was introduced correctly as the remedy, but we were left with the impression that it “added” good energy to the atmosphere rather than removing the Deadly Orgone Energy (DOR) triggered by the experiment -- a forgivable mistake, in my opinion, for someone not completely familiar with the finer details of Reich’s scientific work.

Another misrepresentation was the implication that the physical aspect of Reich’s therapy was equated with massage.  Not true, of course, and something I’m sure the author would have corrected if someone had pointed out the difference.

From the beginning, there were several asides between the narrator and Tolchinsky, who was seated in the audience.  At first, I was a bit put off by this, but in hindsight it was clever because it clarified the autobiographical nature of the play.

The story ended with the couple walking through a swinging door (a time warp back to the 1950’s) with the hope of meeting Reich and changing present-day outcomes.  Also, at the end, Professor Tolchinsky came on stage and gave a short epilogue, posing open-ended “what if” questions.  Would he have had the same problems if his father had been different?  Could his wife’s illness have been cured?  Is what we consider realityreally real?  

Most importantly, for our group, there was no intentional distortion or sabotage of Reich’s work, and for that I was very grateful.  I commend the playwright for his openness, intellectual honesty and attention to detail.  If the purpose of the play was to pique people’s interest in Reich through a comedic medium. . . it worked! 


Introducing James Dean Palmer

Introducing James Dean Palmer, who will be the assistant director for the NY production of my play, An Attempt to Heal in the Contemporary World. Tickets on sale starting September 1.  Dan SilversteinJessy LynnKelley SenerGreg Peace http://davidetolchinsky.com/an-attempt-to-heal/. #fringenyc 

James is a New York based director and educator. In 2010 he was awarded a Joseph Jefferson award for Best Direction of The Love of the Nightingale. He has worked with Steppenwolf Theatre, Roundabout Theatre, The Goodman Theatre, Victory Gardens Theatre, American Theater Company, The Texas Shakespeare Festival, Asolo Rep, NYU, Fordham, Chautauqua Theatre, and Chicago Dramatists, among others. For nine seasons he served as the Artistic Director of Chicago’s Red Tape Theatre. He was the assistant to the Artistic Director at Steppenwolf Theatre and served on the Board of Directors at the League of Chicago Theaters. James has recieved fellowships from the Drama League, SDCF, Chautauqua Theatre Company and is a Peter Kaplan Fellow. He holds an MFA in Directing from Brown University and is a full member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers union. James teaches Acting and Voice and Speech at the Professional Performing Arts School in midtown Manhattan. He has taught directing at Playwrights Horizons and acting at Trinity Repertory Company's Young Adult Summer Institute as well as teaching Viewpoints and Suzuki at Red Tape Theatre in Chicago.