Watching a Jacqueline Wright play is like biting into a cookie full of arsenic. Her subject is the paradoxical, near-poisonous nature of love. And yet the pain roiling her astringent poetry's emotional truths comes sweetened with such mordant wit and vivid, indelible stage imagery as to turn the unpalatable into a delectable feast. Happily, Wright's latest play, Have You Seen Alice — perhaps her most intensely personal yet — is no exception. Its title is strictly ironic. The fact is that nobody has seen this Alice (Michelle Hilyard, in a mesmerizing, knife-edged performance), for the simple reason that Wright's haunting portrait of a woman in the throes of a nervous breakdown is a view from inside her heroine's head. Certainly her husband (the fine Tristan James Butler) is clueless as to the reason for her increasingly bizarre behavior and strange disappearances. As Alice retreats from a loveless marriage and a meaningless job into a surreal, albeit harrowing fantasy world, her insecurities and paranoia take on the epic heroism denied her by real life. Director Adrian A. Cruz imparts a fierce energy to Wright's language in a tight and endlessly inventive staging (enabled by Martin Carrillo's intricate sound, Dan Mailley's elegant set and Brandon Baruch's sculpted lights), while Darrett Sanders' swaggering Leatherman nearly walks off with the show.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Starts: Nov. 4. Continues through Dec. 17, 2011