Two women damaged by life bond as they reveal their secrets in a therapy session fueled by drugs and alcohol.
Intense, occasionally funny, with fluid dialogue, Fierce might work were it not for the fact that one of the women is a psychiatrist. It is extremely difficult in my opinion, to buy into the possibility that a qualified professional who has met this patient only once before would crumble so quickly.
Surely she would have mustered her defenses over years of overcoming her unsavory past, more than a decade of academic effort to become a licensed medical specialist and subsequent experience in dealing with manipulative patients?
Despite the fact that both performers deliver strong characterizations, they must surmount the challenge of the contrived situation and the fact that, even though it is turned upside down, audiences are basically eavesdropping on a warped therapy session.
Emmelia Gordon is particularly effective as the scrappy patient, Jayne. Making it clear that she is present only because she must comply with a court order to attend therapy sessions, she has made it her business to research the therapist’s background, so that she can gain control of their encounter.
As Maggie, the therapist, Pandora Topp is initially cool, remote and professional, but that façade melts away quickly—as the script requires. It is just too fast to be believable if the situation could ever seem completely authentic.
Prolific playwright George F. Walker, best known for his fascination with people living on the edge of society, can be relied on to write convincing dialogue and presenting thought-provoking, if not always easy-to-accept, scenarios.
Fierce delivers on the dialogue front and in presenting two interesting back stories. The problems lie in the contrived reverse therapy session and the immediate collapse of a supposedly strong woman.
Fierce continues at the Gladstone to October 13.
This article first appeared in Capital Critics’ Circle on October 10, 2018, and has been reposted with permission.
This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.