The Fever by Wallace Shawn

Actors Repertory Theatre Luxembourg
Director's Program Notes

The Fever is a tour de force in which a Narrator recounts his/her transformative experience traveling to an unnamed Third World country.  A product of self-described privilege, she jointly criticizes and defends her life of urbanity after encountering the poverty and suffering of the “the poor.”  Longing for forgiveness, the Narrator’s journey mirrors our own comparative privilege as citizens of the first-world, who, despite our very best intentions, indirectly contribute to the hegemonic superstructure determining a status quo marked by social injustice and human rights violations.

Wallace Shawn wrote The Fever in 1991 in response to US complicity in the travesties that beset numerous Central American countries at the time, some of which underwent Marxist rebellions.  Indeed, much of Shawn’s play echoes the economic principles of Marx by juxtaposing them against the Narrator’s need to justify his/her First World privilege.  What ensues is a symphonic aria of rhetorical eloquence, as he painstakingly quests for reconciliation.

The Fever continues to be as relevant and resonant today as it was fifteen years ago.  We need look no further than the daily horror show the mass media presents to our pleasantly ensconced lives.  From the human-induced tragedies of Aleppo and elsewhere to the carnage a natural disaster like Hurricane Mathew can inflict on the good people of Haiti, a nation far too underdeveloped and unprepared to protect itself “from seasons such as these” (King Lear), we are remotely privy to suffering of the downtrodden and dispossessed.  I cite Lear because in a sense Shakespeare’s titular character empathizes with the poor only after finding himself among them:  “Poor naked wretches wheresoer you are that bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,” a line he utters before asserting his corrective in the key of social justice, “Take physic pomp that you may feel what they feel and make the heavens more just.”

Cast & Design Team
  • Set, Lighting, and Sound Design:
  • Peter Zazzali
  • Costume Design:
  • Christine Probst
Cast:The Traveller: Erik Abbott/Christine Probst

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