Review of The Fever at Black Mirror Theatre

    The Fever is a monologue written and originally performed by Wallace Shawn. It is a serious work, even though Shawn is best known as a comic actor. His 213 credits on include portrayals of Vizzini in The Princess Bride, Rex in Toy Story, Grand Nagus Zek in Star Trek Deep Space Nine, and himself in My Dinner with Andre.

    The unnamed speaker in The Fever is traveling at the start of the play. The speaker is shaking and shivering when he or she awakens in a hotel room in a poor foreign country. The physical suffering caused by the fever is mirrored by the guilt the speaker feels over complicity in the unequal distribution of wealth throughout the world. The play is filled with moral indignation.

    The program for Black Mirror Theatre’s current staging of The Fever includes a note from the author: “This piece was originally written with the idea that it could be performed on a sort of door- to-door basis in people’s homes or apartments, perhaps for an audience of ten or twelve. It can also be done in theatres—small ones or even large ones…It can be done by a man or woman of more or less any age or type.”

    Black Mirror is presenting the play in a theater but not in a way not envisioned in this quotation. The production has a cast of six.

    Kelly Ballard plays someone who speaks about being sick. The rest of the script is split among five other actors: Hannah de Oliveira, Uche Ijei, Victor Mendez, Kyra Pearson, and Michael Wagner. They mingle like guests a party. Ballard’s visibly suffering character is surrounded by the partygoers but does not interact with them. Presumably, they are figures in dream fueled by the fever.

    The division of the script is highly effective. Lines written as a monologue work surprisingly well as dialogue. The resulting conversations enhance the drama.

    All six performers give committed, convincing performances under Brian J. Rolf’s direction. The staging is in the round with just a few props that create a party setting. Hearing an actor facing away from one’s vantage point is occasionally difficult, but one can argue that the same would be true at the sort of party the dreamer is imagining. Michelle Zielinski designed the atmospheric lighting.

    The Fever runs through December 10 in the Strauss Black Box Theatre of the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center, 210 East Monroe Avenue.

    —Gerry Kowarsky

    Photo by Michelle Rebollo
    From left: Hannah de Oliveira, Kyra Pearson, Kelly Ballard, Michael Wagner, Victor Mendez, and Uche Ijei.