A Smart, Spooky Tale

A Smart, Spooky Tale

ArkansasStaged’s ‘Squeamish’ lives up to name


Playwright Aaron Mark’s one-woman play “Squeamish” opens in the middle of the night in the office of a psychiatrist’s home, where a client named Sharon is beginning to tell the story of what necessitated her emergency midnight phone call to her doctor. It’s an appropriate beginning for the dark material that follows, which Jason Shipman — who is directing the show for ArkansasStaged — calls both disturbing and “delicious.” He says the latter word is one that he and actor Debra Capps have used frequently during rehearsals.

“It’s an accurate reflection of how we felt, reading the play and imagining what the audience response might be,” says Shipman. “That’s a delicious thing, when you can get the audience to lean forward and take them to places they didn’t expect to go, and, maybe, really didn’t want to go. That’s a delicious and satisfying thing.”

The show will run one night only on Oct. 28, and its subject matter is perfect for the Halloween season. Sharon has just returned from the funeral of her nephew, who died unexpectedly under … odd … circumstances. Shipman won’t say much about the twisty, turny plot: The less you know, the wilder the ride.

“It’s all in the title of the play,” he says. “Sharon takes us on this journey where we really begin to see things through her perspective and start to understand why she made the choices she made. We empathize and sympathize with why she made them — but it gets squeamish. I think Mark really has a talent for imagery. When you have just one person that you’re connecting with as an audience member, if that one person has really, really good language to use, then it’s going to help draw you in and help paint the landscape better. It heightens that terrifying or thrilling aspect of the show. There’s no Tarantino gore or anything like that — no spraying buckets of blood. It’s more in the storytelling and language and the circumstances that this person describes that the horror blossoms. It’s a savory and delicious story.”

“It is a bit of a horror tale, but it is also very complex and very unexpected, and I think that’s where the deliciousness comes in,” says Capps, who made her directorial debut with ArkansasStaged with last year’s “Dear Elizabeth.” “It sort of takes you to different places than where you think it might be going. Where you think there may be a solid answer, there’s ambiguity, and where you thought something might remain ambiguous, it becomes very clear. And that’s just really good writing. I am very much hoping to couple that with some great storytelling and make it a very intimate and fun ride between me and the audience.”

Capps acknowledges that performing a one-person show carries some heavy responsibilities.

“The cons are that you’re by yourself, and you have all the pressure,” she says. “You don’t have the energy to feed off another actor, and that is a very satisfying and intoxicating part of the art form. The big thing for me, though, is that there is this crazy, intense connection you have with the audience when it’s just you.”

“This is a great story to introduce [Capps] to Northwest Arkansas as an actor,” says Shipman. “They’ll see what a magnetic performer she is.”

To heighten the spooky pre-show atmosphere, original music will be provided by Amos Cochran in collaboration with Trillium Salon Series. The Hive’s Matthew McClure will provide food and drinks.

This smart, chilling production stands out in a season that offers a plethora of haunted houses but not much else for adults who like to celebrate Halloween.

“There’s holiday fare around December, but I think it’s kind of rare that we get a Halloween-themed production,” says Shipman. “It’s exciting to get to dip into this.”




WHEN — Food and drink at 6 p.m., performance at 7 p.m. Oct. 28

WHERE — 21c Museum Hotel, 200 N.E. “A” St., Bentonville

COST — Free, with a suggested donation of $10

INFO — facebook.com/ArkansasStaged

Categories: Theater