Bleakly funny, autobiographical, and melancholic, Anchorpectoris (The United States of the Mind)—written and directed by Gerald Thomas—takes a chilling look at how deeply alienated society has become, with television standing in for reality, and consumerism for self-affirmation. Lip-synching to pre-recorded voices of real and imaginary people, cast members carry on a dialogue, with Thomas, themselves, and us, about the state of the States. (“Anchorpectoris,” a neurological term for depression, refers to both the numbing effects of government hypocrisy—Bush’s deceitful preachments constitute Exhibit A—and the public’s complicity in its own deception.)
As put by one of two Thomas alter egos—Stephen Nisbet and Tom Walker make a poignant Beckettian pair—we have “a sickness in the head.” Nisbet worries about his Dead Muse, a casualty of Puritans in our midst and their narrow moral alphabet. Lo and behold, the muse, played convincingly by Fabiana Guglielmetti, comes alive, talking and dancing, declaring she’s Jules Feiffer’s iconic Dancer.
Rough around the edges, Anchorpectoris has a uniformly strong cast, with Stacey Raymond particularly hilarious as a rapper. The piece works effectively since its politics are grounded in the personal, and the personal here dares measure itself against the larger world of ideas. In today’s regressively hermetic climate, Thomas’s play is tantamount to sedition.