Theater Review: 'The Fever'

Ben Miles

Wallace Shawn’s Obie award-winning play, “The Fever,” from 1990, seems particularly relevant in the face of this  21st century coronavirus pandemic. It’s a mono-drama that in graphic verbal descriptions examines the relationship between class status, social privilege, death and disease, as well as the sad inequities or the abundant bounties into which we may be born.

In the YouTube accessible performance of “The Fever” that this writer reviewed, the character is played by Jim Luken, who in about an hour and-a-half delivers a delirium-fueled monologue that touches on issues ranging from torture to hotel buffets to toilet habits.

It’s a simple, unadorned production, which was written by Mr. Shawn (now best known for his role on TV’s “Young Sheldon”) for performances in homes and apartments for groups of a dozen or less (keep you distance). The piece can be performed by women (Vanessa Redgrave starred in an 2004 HBO production), men (originally played by Mr. Shawn in 1990), the  young or the not so young.

“The Fever,” is a play perfectly matched for our unsettling era; it sheds a glaring light on why we are seeing discrepancies in the health care and the outcomes received by people based on race, ethnicity and economic status. Face it if you dare: “The Fever” makes it clear that we’re all on this planet together. To paraphrase John Lennon, can the world live as one?

“The Fever” is available through YouTube. The HBO film can be rented or purchased. Search the internet for access and further information.


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