Review: Dana H. at Kirk Douglas Theatre

Deirdre O’Connell in the world premiere of Lucas Hnath’s “Dana H.” Photo by Craig Schwartz.

Told in Dana’s own words and reconstructed for the stage by her son, award winning playwright, Lucas Hnath (The Christians, A Doll’s House, part 2), this unique piece of theater utilizes the original tapes of an in-depth interview Dana gave years ago and creates a chilling lip-sync masterpiece shattering our understanding of good and evil. Deirdre O’Connell (Nurse Jackie, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) stars as Dana and never misses a beat, perfectly matching every inflection, stammer and sigh. Hearing the real Dana’s voice adds a tremendous impact to the already intense material.

Deirdre O’Connell in the world premiere of Lucas Hnath’s “Dana H.” Photo by Craig Schwartz.

Dana dedicated her life to helping others as a nondenominational hospice chaplain at a psych ward. After she counseled a lifelong criminal named Jim following his second suicide attempt, he became obsessed with her. As soon as Jim is released from the psych ward due to a glitch in their system, he comes looking for Dana, breaks into her home, and takes her captive. Over a grueling period of 5 months, a terrified, disoriented Dana is subjected to beatings, rape, and mental abuse on a regular basis as they shuttle through a series of cheap motels. Her attempts at escaping are futile as Jim manages to catch her again and again, and she experiences first hand the incompetence of our broken justice system. But this is more than a riveting true life story about a woman’s desperate struggle to escape the clutches of a monster. It’s also a testament to how determination triumphs, and to the ability to understand and forgive.

— Victor Riobo

Dana H. runs through June 23rd at the Kirk Douglas Theater in Culver City. Tickets here.