2023 Capital Fringe Review: ‘INHIBITIONIST(!)’ by Hope Lafferty (3 1⁄2 stars)

In this one-woman existential exhibition, Hope Lafferty demands you escape your comfort zone.

Show of hands if you feel more inhibited now than, oh, say, three years ago?

If actual therapy is not an option, INHIBITIONIST(!)  — unabashedly all caps with bold punctuation — is your ticket to shedding some of your pandemic pelt, or even the crusty armor built up since birth.

In this one-woman existential exhibition directed by Rhianna Basore and Cleo DeOrio, performance artist-playwright Hope Lafferty, who is also a bona fide psychotherapist and spent her COVID cocoon in clown school, demands you escape your comfort zone. First clue: caution tape wrapped around a padded box center stage, which turns out to be her costar.

This is no laugh-a-minute comedy, but through playfulness and wordplay, Lafferty manages to connect harrowing details of her preemie birth and accident-prone youth to life lessons writ large. She even enumerates them (e.g., Lesson No. 1: “If you have fun, you will get hurt”).

The show is one of this year’s imports, having premiered at the Fresno (California) Rogue Festival on March 6, 2020, just a week before coronavirus lockdowns. Indeed, Lafferty seemed to parachute in within an hour of curtain time, half-made-up, pinning her own poster to the door, dodging patrons in the lobby, lugging a bright-yellow “carpetbag” into the green room.

But if her arrival at the festival was last-minute, most everything else about her seems ahead of her time. Emerging onstage in a head-to-toe white ensemble — a clean slate — topped with a type of lab coat (things are about to get clinical), she muddies her monologue with material that might fly over some heads: comparing the child development theories of Sigmund Freud to those of her hero, Erik Erikson; dissecting the effects of birth order; interpreting her astrological natal charts. It’s heady stuff. More relatable is her analysis of women’s microaggressions, maternal-child conflicts, and the tendency for self-sabotage. Lafferty’s piercing eye contact gives the impression she’s speaking only to you. One drawback: While thought-provoking, it’s hard to engage emotionally.

Lafferty is at her best eschewing all words and launching Evil Knievel–style into a mimed recap set to a soundtrack of ambient music and Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks.” Never fear: Hope does reign.

Designed to embolden passive onlookers, INHIBITIONIST(!) is a headstrong attempt to tame demons and let loose one’s inner child. At a spry 50-something, Lafferty admits she has a dominant “Lucy Van Pelt” gene and the Doctor Is In — costing you only about 35 cents a minute.

Running Time: 40 minutes.

INHIBITIONIST(!) plays July 21 at 7:45 pm, July 22 at 6:45 pm, and July 23 at 3:00 pm at Sour – 2nd Floor – 1050 Thomas Jefferson. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online.

Genre: Comedy
Directors: Rhianna Basore & Cleo DeOrio
Playwright: Hope Lafferty
Performers: Hope Lafferty
Age appropriateness: Recommended for Children 13 + older

The complete 2023 Capital Fringe Festival guidebook is online here.


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