Dr. Jean –Martin Charcot was a French neurologist whose explorations into female hysteria created a sensation in late- l9th-century Paris and influenced a young student-named Sigmund Freud. Now he is the unlikely subject of the New Stage Theatre’s visually striking but thematically simplistic new work Some Historic/Some Hysteric. Using lecture transcripts, co-creators Jjessica Sofia Mitrani and lldiko Nemeth (who also directs) re-create a surreal version of Charcot’s bizarre and highly popular “Tuesday Lectures,” in which the public was invited to Salpetriere hospi tal to watch patients enact their neurologica l maladies. Mitrani and Nemeth smartly view these public forums as more a in to vaudeville than medicine, and cast the cold, manipulative Charcot (Markus Hirnigel) as a sort of ringmaster to an unhappy menagerie of freaks and trained beasts.
However, the artists’ conclusions do not range far beyond the easy ideas that Charcot’s studies were odious and perverse, and that his subjects were possibly made hysterical by their very treatments. The product ion is best when it stops talking (the tedious Victorian Woman, played by Denice Kondik. provides running commentary) and traffics only in disturbing visions, such as a sequence in which the patients robotically take a spot of tea, or the super-creepy finale when the miserable hysterics drift into the audience. More arrest ng still is a woman (Gaby Schafer) in a red-andblack-patterned gown who is seemingly pinned to wallpaper of the identicaI design for the duration of the show. Everything we need to know is there in the pained look on Schafer’s perfectly frozen face.