The Yellow Wallpaper

Woman, trapped

Sue Mach's stage adaptation of "The Yellow Wallpaper" at CoHo feels like the pit of your stomach, ripped out


In its December 2015 issue, Harper’s Magazine published The Bed-Rest Hoax: The case against a venerable pregnancy treatment. The essay’s author, Alexandra Kleeman, was the person at rest, and was taking her doctor’s prescribed leave in the Pacific Northwest. She writes in detail of the mental prison she assumes while on bed-rest, and the decline of her body.

The Yellow Wallpaper, a 6,000-word story on a similar theme by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, was published 123 years ago. For all you nonbelievers in equal rights, this is to say in print that not a whole lot has changed.

But CoHo’s production of Sue Mach’s new play The Yellow Wallpaper isn’t about that. It’s a psychological thriller that will leave you feeling like the pit of your stomach was ripped out and lost down a hole. Even if you haven’t been a woman who’s been medically sent to “rest,” any person who’s ever felt trapped will feel in every synapse of their nervous system the helpless collapse of closing doors as your freedom slips away in fits and starts. Mach has made for the stage the play you see in your mind as you read the original story.

Grace Carter, caught in the wallpaper. Photo: Holly Andres

Grace Carter, caught in the wallpaper. Photo: Holly Andres

The Yellow Wallpaper is a semi-autobiographical cry for change that Perkins Gilman sent to the pioneering physician who administered his cure, after she suffered from a then-undiagnosed case of postpartum depression. A usual graduate school tract, The Yellow Wallpaper is studied as a look at early American feminism and has much in common with its forerunner, The Awakening, by Kate Chopin. Mach takes the platform of Perkins Gilman’s poetic tale of losing every part of herself and confines us in a room that anticipates Sartre’s No Exit and seems to draw from the death chambers of a Brontë novel.