Miranda Huba’s new play, Hospital City, tells a poetic tale about two sisters desperately trying to escape their lives. The sisters are introduced as poor drug addicts who’ve been at a debaucherous party all night and one of the sisters, Mia, has committed a wrongdoing. It’s quickly apparent that Mel is always taking care of her sister Mia. Mia is blissfully ignorant of any problem and is contented to stay at the party, but Mel is determined they escape for a magical place that will save them both: The Hospital.
The way Mel talks about The Hospital makes it seem like one part vacation resort, one part rehabilitation center, and one part Disneyworld. Once the sisters get to The Hospital they realize that it is exorbitantly expensive just to get in, and that their time there will be far from the pleasant oasis they longed for. The Hospital becomes the new crazy party in which they are trapped, with horrendous living conditions. Never quite in reality, the sisters journey through the nightmarish Hospital as pawns within a corrupted system intent on destroying them. They are given more and more medications, but nothing seems to truly ease their pain. Mel at first can’t help but participate in the games of The Hospital, but then she quickly becomes aware of the corruption and tries to distance herself from The Hospital’s influence. On the other hand, Mia is lured further into a world of drugs, beauty obsession, a fraud psychiatrist, prostitution, irrational fears, and her own deteriorating health. The Hospital mirrors and feeds the sisters addictions and anxieties, enforcing their literal and psychological imprisonment. Determined to survive, Mel finds a job as a poet and her poetry becomes a means of staying strong. The themes of art, creativity, and intelligence begin to clash against the lure of addictions as the sisters both struggle for survival.
Huba’s play is a nightmare of sorts and a commentary on women and modern health care, as well as on quick-fix culture. Huba exaggerates the world of The Hospital to encompass the experience of addiction as well as the sisters’ entrapment. At the beginning of the play the sisters do a dance where their arms and legs move as if by puppet strings. They are moved by outside forces, society, their addictions, and obsessions as they go through The Hospital and their own lives. Huba doesn’t give her characters back stories, instead deeply honing in on their addictions, fears, and feelings. The characters are open slates for the audience to project onto and to question. Miranda Huba writes dialogue that is often quick stanzas of poetry, with lots of comedy scattered throughout. Most of the comedy comes from the hilarious and versatile narrator, played by Kate Armstrong Ross. The narrator plays multiple characters and repeatedly talks directly to the audience. The way the play constantly shifts from drama, to comedy, to performance art, and even to musical comedy in one scene, makes it totally engaging and fun despite the depressing subject matter.
Hospital City is written and directed by Miranda Huba; featuring Lindsay Mack, Joanne Wilson, and Kate Armstrong Ross. It runs until October 15th with performances at 8pm nightly (no performance on Wednesday), upstairs at St. Mark’s Church, 1313 W. 10th St., @ 2nd Ave, NYC. Tickets are available online at incubatorarts.org or by phone at TheaterMania 212-352-3101.
Photo from Incubator Arts Project site