Goodman Theatre Presents DANA H Review – Banality of Terror

Lights are flashing more like one imagines a seizure than a lightening storm…

Lines of spoken words are running into each other like train wreck pile ons…

Goodman Theatre DANA H

And by now we know the title character Dana H. so well that we can surmise what we are seeing is her PTSD brain dissociating at rapid speed.

Meanwhile, the housekeeper in maid’s uniform goes about making the bed and tidying the basic hotel room not paying mind to the blood stains and obvious other signs of disorder it displays.  It’s as though Hannah Arendt had written a sequel to her classic The Banality of Evil and titled it The Banality of Terror.

Though this dramatic scene and brain searing stagecraft (Paul Toben: Lighting and Supertitle Design; Mikhail Fiksel: Sound Design) comes toward the end of the play, it doesn’t strike this writer as much of a spoiler to spell it out.  You know from the gitgo that this is the story of how the title character, a hospice chaplain and real-world mother of the playwright Lucas Hnath, was held hostage for many months. This play is a dramatic re-telling of the tale she lived to tell.  Knowing this ending does not in any way interfere with you being riveted the entire 75 minutes.

Goodman Theatre Breaks The Mold with Lip Synching Experiment

Part of what makes this such gripping fare – at least for this writer-- is that you hear the story in Dana H.’s actual voice, with the actress Deirdre O’Connell lip synching all the while.  It’s a break the mold approach to theater that in itself should make this a top pick for your time.

Goodman Theatre DANA H
From left, playwright Lucas Hnath and Dana Higginbotham during the party for the world premiere of “Dana H.”

O’Connell animates the voice recounting her ordeal—and it is quite an ordeal---giving every sentence inflection the proper gesture, expression or perhaps even just a muscle tightening in response to the harrowing detail being shared.  The term nuanced performance is much bandied about.  This writer suggests that video clips of O’Connell could serve as the library definition of what such a performance looks like.

There is a specific warning for minors to be kept away from this content.  It would be difficult to come up with a comparable list of trigger warnings for adults, as the list might be too long.  Anyone who suffers nightmares from any life episode where they lost their agency should stay far, far, far away from this performance.  If you aren’t in a fragile moment of life though, make this your top pick.

Goodman Theatre DANA H
From left, cast member Deirdre O’Connell and Dana Higginbotham


Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves

Watch this video showing the TOP PICK PLAYS of 2019

Playwright:  Lucas Hnath

Director:  Les Waters


Thru October 06, 2019


Goodman’s Owen Theatre
170 North Dearborn


Deirdre O’Connell



For full-priced tickets and ticket availability information visit the Goodman Theatre website or visit/call - 312.443.3800

Check for Half-Price Deals from Hot Tix:

Performance Photos by Craig Schwartz; photos including Lucas Hnath and Dana Higgenbotham by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging

Note: Picture This Post reviews are excerpted by Theatre in Chicago

Amy Munice

About the Author:

Amy Munice is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Publisher of Picture This Post. She covers books, dance, film, theater, music, museums and travel. Prior to founding Picture This Post, Amy was a freelance writer and global PR specialist for decades—writing and ghostwriting thousands of articles and promotional communications on a wide range of technical and not-so-technical topics.

Amy hopes the magazine’s click-a-picture-to-read-a-vivid-account format will nourish those ever hunting for under-discovered cultural treasures. She especially loves writing articles about travel finds, showcasing works by cultural warriors of a progressive bent, and shining a light on bold, creative strokes by fledgling artists in all genres.


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