Nov. 15, 2022 – For those who like their withdrawal hallucinations and group therapy theatrically inclined, there’s “People, Places & Things” at Studio Theatre, now until December 11. The show, written by Duncan Macmillan and helmed by Studio artistic director David Muse, is mostly a relatively straightforward story of substance abuse and potential improvement (you know all the beats already: rock bottom, messy intake, resistance, aggression, a breakthrough or relapse or two, ambiguous ending). But that “theatrically inclined” is meant doubly: The added wrinkle here is that our main character, the addict in question, is herself an actress. Booze and pills and powders are both a crutch she uses to distance herself from her unhappiness (i.e. another character to put on) and the only way she feels real, the ultimate stripping of the existential mask when all the world’s a shitty stage that you can’t understand.

And, of course, she’s a helluva liar.

As Emma (or is it Nina?), Kristen Bush is put through the tears-and-vomit ringer, but she accomplishes two of the more difficult actor feats: She feels genuinely in-the-moment, surprised by and reacting in real time to the disaster she’s made of her life, and she gives her character a clear and specific personality while also standing in well for the audience. Her intelligent, sharp edges become our own, bristling at the “higher power” pablum of The Book and rejecting the idea that she has a disease while still yearning for a magic make-it-all-OK button.


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