HYSTERIA is a dark, comic look at global obsession with superficial appearance. It is set in Manhattan on the morning of September 11, 2001. It was a finalist for the Actors’ Theatre of Louisville’s Heidemann Award for best 10-minute play.

The entire play takes place in the living room of THE WOMAN on September 11, 2001 in Manhattan.



THE WOMAN - 30s, thin, beautiful, although not recognizably so at the beginning of the play
ANGEL - 20s to 30s, tall, thin, a makeup artist
EYANNA - 20s to 30s, a wardrobe artist
RALSTON - 30s to 40s, a hairdressing artist



(Late morning.  A nearly empty space, except for a few upscale pieces of furniture: a sofa, a chair, a coffee table littered with several fashion magazines, some artwork-- voluptuous Renoir style nudes-- hang suspended from the flies but not attached to any walls.  A large frame, which will serve as a mirror, is suspended downstage left. As the lights go up, we hear the song “Keep Young and Beautiful,” which fades to silence.  A moment, and then a piercing and terrifying scream from offstage, followed by another.  The WOMAN enters, wearing a terrycloth bathrobe and no makeup, her hair limp and uncombed.  She is in her 30s, very thin, and is in a state of panic. She has a hand mirror which she keeps holding up to her face. There is a red streak running down one side of her face. She screams periodically, like an hysteric. She picks up one of the fashion magazines, searches through it, finds a page, tears it out, puts the page down on the coffee table, searches through the rest of the magazine, finds another page, tears that out and lays it on top of the first page. She tosses the magazine on the floor, picks up another one, does the same thing. All during this she talks to herself, alternately mumbling and screaming. NOTE: throughout the play, the sound of sirens intrude, subtly at first, then with increasing frequency. A distant din of hysterical voices can be heard, also increasing throughout the play. )

(while she is looking through the magazines)

Oh my God! I can't believe this!  Shit!  This cannot be happening.  This is an outrage.  That's what it is.  I will not stand for this!  Oh God, what am I going to do? I cannot function like this! I have to get help, no one should be expected to go through this alone -- it's too much!  Help me, HELP ME!!  SOMEBODY HELP ME!!

(She collapses on the couch, sobbing and screaming into a pillow, then looks up, sits up and reaches into her robe pocket for her cell phone. She dials a number.)

Angel?  Where are you!?  I told you it's an emergency.  I called you ages ago!

(She hangs up and dials another number.)

Where the hell is everybody?  EYANNA?  I need you now.

(She hangs up again and redials again.)

Ralston?  Pick up.  I said pick up!  I know you're there. (Pause) Shit.  All right, I'm staying calm, but I'm telling you I need you here on the double!

(She hangs up the phone and puts it back in her pocket.  She then picks up the pages she has torn out of the magazines and sets them down in a row on the coffee table.  She picks one of them up.)

This.  No, that one.

(She puts the first picture down and picks a second one up.  She keeps picking up pages and putting them down, then finding new pages in the magazines and tearing them out, until she starts screaming again and tears the pictures.)

These two, and that one -- no, that's not right, I don't know I don't know I don't know I don't know!

(She starts crying again, gets up, picks up the phone and dials again.)


Habbibah (hah-bée-bah), I'm lost.  Did you hear that? I'm lost. It's all over, I can't move, I can't think, all I can do is scream and I'm too defeated, too frozen with fear to do even that.  Call me back.

(She disconnects and redials.)

Angel, this is too cruel for anyone.  How can you do this to me?  Hello!?


I'm listening.


Oh, God!  Where are you?  I'm... distraught!  I can't deal.

(ANGEL enters, still talking on her cell phone.  She is a young, girl, completely devoid of emotion.  She carries a makeup case.)


Sorry. Traffic. People running everywhere. Some sort of fire somewhere. Smells funny.

(She glances at the WOMAN)

And our problem would be?

(The WOMAN turns around, sees ANGEL, puts her phone back in her bathrobe pocket and stands there as ANGEL disconnects her phone and looks the WOMAN up and down.)

Yes, I can see why you called.


It's horrible, isn't it?  I'm right, aren't I?


Yes.  Horrible.  But not impossible.  Sit down.

(The WOMAN sits down in the chair.  Angel takes out a large magnifying glass from her makeup case and begins examining the WOMAN's  face.)

You slept on your stomach again.


I tried not to.  I had pillows all around me.


It happens sometimes.

(Still examining her face with the magnifier.)

My God.  That is the deepest sleep wrinkle I've ever seen.

(The WOMAN begins to scream again.  ANGEL slaps her.  She stops, horrified, jumps up and runs to the mirror.)

Don't worry.  I didn't slap hard enough to leave finger marks.  I know my craft.  Now stop crying and sit back down here.

(The WOMAN comes back and sits down, meekly.)


OK.  What do we have today?

(As she asks the WOMAN questions, she begins to do a complete and over the top high-fashion makeup job on her.  When she is finished, the WOMAN will look like she is about to pose for Vogue’s cover.  ANGEL performs her task in a very matter-of-fact way, and chooses her colors and styles based on what the WOMAN tells her.)